Skip to main content

2 Leadership Styles


Recently our family was at a party of mutual school parent friends. Had a conversation with one of the Dads about "what we do". This led to him sharing a bit about where he works and their culture. He said they are highly transactional in how they approach almost everything. Curious, I inquired how he felt about their approach. He stated that for his industry it was probably appropriate, then added that it didn't always feel very good. We had a great conversation about his experience and the work being done by "Culture Rx" and their Results Only Work Environment.

It's important to note that a transformational approach isn't inherently better or more correct than the transactional approach. They're just different. Both of these have been examined by management professionals, researchers, consultants, and the like for years. First, let's unpack these...

Get 'er done!

In the transactional leadership style, it's all about getting things accomplished inside policies and procedures that are in place. Like in the example above, there is very little focus on employee personal growth. Work is measured against goals in a primarily right or wrong objective view.


In contrast, transformational leadership strives to connect employees to blend their talents toward the overall mission and vision of the enterprise. With clarity, recognition, and support this approach fosters loyalty through shared purpose.

When do you use them?

Again, one is not better than the other. Part of the responsibility of leadership is to deploy the appropriate style to the situation. This is addressed in Hersey-Blanchard's "Situational Leadership" model. Blanchard's updated book "Leadership and the One Minute Manager" is a great update to their original work. Regardless of the style used, it must come from an intentional and authentic place. Just as it's not appropriate to approach every situation as a transaction, it's not appropriate to approach every situation as an amazing transformational moment in our lives. Leaning on the wrong style for the moment can often feel overly bureaucratic or overly inspirational.

Routine tasks don't need inspiration, they need a connection to existing frameworks to assist completion. When these are met as bigger challenges than they actually are it often feels like micromanagement. Then when something truly unique appears and we need to figure out how to change to meet the new challenge we find disengaged employees and wonder what's wrong. This scenario isn't about judgment, it's about awareness. Awareness of how we honor our shared humanity in the work we accomplish together.

In the example we started with, the transactional style is used more heavily and is perhaps most appropriate for the majority of the work they accomplish. While leaning on this might be best, there are likely opportunities to deploy a transformational approach. It's in these moments supporting elements of great teamwork are missed.

There are many leadership styles we can blend together that align with our values and beliefs. By comparing and contrasting these two styles we can decide what fits best for each of us as we continue on our leadership development journey. Because the journey is the destination!

*Here's a great article on this topic from the Management Training Specialists...What is the difference between Transactional and Transformational leadership?

Add Comment

Comments (0)


About the Extension Foundation

The Extension Foundation was formed in 2006 by Extension Directors and Administrators. Today, the Foundation partners with Cooperative Extension through liaison roles and a formal plan of work with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) to increase system capacity while providing programmatic services, and helping Extension programs scale and investigate new methods and models for implementing programs. The Foundation provides professional development to Cooperative Extension professionals and offers exclusive services to its members. In 2020 and 2021, the Extension Foundation has awarded 85% of its direct funding back to the Cooperative Extension System, 100% of funds are used to support Cooperative Extension initiatives. 

This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

Link copied to your clipboard.