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A fleet of transactional leaders is controlling our governments


Yetunde A. Odugbesan-Omede, Ph.D

Described in 1947 by Max Weber and further expounded upon by Bernard Bass, Transactional Leadership is centered on the management process that involves controlling, organizing and short-term planning.

This leadership style has been applied by leaders and top echelons of management. This styles follows a principle of reward and punishment. If followers follow and yield to the structures that their leaders present, they will be rewarded and if not can result will result in disciplinary action. Does this style of leadership sound familiar when it comes to the political leaders ruling your government?

The above is a good example of what is happening in our governments today. Our government is being led by transactional leaders and not transformational leaders. Although transactional leadership is accompanied by clear structures and unbendable policies, however in cases where corruption reign supreme such policies and structures are prone to destabilization and manipulation from internal and external forces.


In addition, the structures that are often put in place are ones that benefit the status quo or kleptocrats in power. Going against such policies or instructions from those in power ultimately can lead to suspension, termination or even death. Transactional leaders (some of the new politicians of our time) tell their subordinates or followers what to do which leads to unyielding and often coerced support.

This type of leadership style is so unyielding and stringent that it doesn’t take into account suggestions, recommendations or thoughts from others. It kills creativity therefore often ignoring or unwilling to cultivate fresh ideas and youthful minds. Most transactional leaders refuse to be held accountable when things go wrong. They rather shift blame to their subordinates or perhaps in the field of politics they are likely to shift glaring issues in government to their political predecessors, the media or opposition parties.

Most importantly we have seen a wave of politicians who lack sensitivity and empathy. Transactional leaders operate within a set of rules that cannot be changed, rules that often only benefit a tiny fraction of the ruling class. Since transactional leaders are only concerned about the give and take nature for example, jobs for votes, campaign donations for political appointments, blind loyalty for promotion…they are not concerned about the needs of the masses who they believe they cannot benefit from.

However on the other side of the spectrum is transformational leadership. A style of leadership where leaders work with their followers or constituents to identify change, create a vision, provide guidance through inspiration and empowerment and execute change. Transformational leaders set long-term goals and raise the awareness of moral standards and create ethical climates where policies and laws are a reflection of the altruistic honor and virtue. We need politicians to understand the varying degrees and styles of leadership. To have an understanding of best leadership styles that will support and empower the masses not the self-interests of the ruling/political elites in society.

This article can name names and point out various governments specifically that use transactional leadership styles but I am sure they know themselves. The first step to creating lasting change is being accountable to yourself and honest to those whom you lead that you have failed and in order to rectify your wrong you are willing to relinquish the baton of leadership to let Democracy prevail. Many countries are facing upcoming election, in order for any country to move forward a new wave of transformational leaders need to step up and run the race of change.

Dr. Yetunde A Odugbesan-Omede, is a Professor of Politics and Global Affairs at Farmingdale State College in New York and CEO of Yetunde Global Consulting, a leadership consulting firm and think-tank. Her full bio can be read at

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