Leadership: Transactional or Transforming?

James MacGregor Burns died last week. When I determined to study the art and science of leadership, Burns’ book “Leadership” was the first I recall reading.

 I don’t ever recommend the book. It recall it to be tough sledding to read. But, in an early chapter he introduced the concept of transforming leadership as contrasted with transactional leadership. The idea is a cornerstone to how I have thought leadership ever since.

 He put it this way: “The result of transforming leadership is a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that converts followers into leaders and may convert leaders into moral agents.”

 You see what I mean? Rough sledding.

 Let me put it another way:

 When I lead, there should be more at stake than whether the follower does what I need him to do for the organization.

 The follower should get more than a check. He should be engaged in the work. He should be learning things that prepare them to lead when the opportunities are presented. If we are successful, they will not only perform better in their jobs, they will be a force for good in their families, their churches, their schools and their communities. It’s never about simple giving and taking. It’s about transforming to a better situation by lifting all concerned.

 My relationship with Burns was brief and through a book almost 40 years ago. But his teaching stuck. It made a difference.