Transactional Leadership This mode of leadership is often found in “middle management”, especially in large bureaucracies. It is a strictly rules-bound method of leading a project or organization. The principle is simple. If you do X, you will receive Y. If you fail to do X, you will receive -Y. Rewards and consequences are the name of the game, and “the way we do things here” is the way we will always do things here. If you’re late, you get written up. If your sales rise above quota, you get a bonus. If you write less speeding tickets than expected, you get a written reprimand.
The problem with transactional leadership (when used exclusively as a leadership style) is that innovation and change is nearly impossible. In a constantly changing world, organizations led by transactional leaders will fail, because of the built-in, rigid and institutionalized resistance to change. It should be easy to see how quickly change agents are targeted for removal from these places.
I have been writing an essay about collaboration, using the process of making the album “Eleventh Hour Shine” as a case study. To my surprise, the essay has taken a turn towards the study of leadership.
I’ve decided to post different portions of the essay in individual blog posts. Today, I’ll present a brief passage about a style of leadership called “laissez faire” or “Delegative” Leadership.
Laissez Faire/Delegative Leadership This leadership style seems to be the most prevalent in large bureaucracies. The words laissez faire come from the French and mean “let” (laissez) “do” (faire). The phrase was born from a French economic philosophy which champions the idea that an economic system should take its own course without regulation or interference.
As far as leadership is concerned, this style has some merit in that the leader chooses not to micro-manage or interfere with subordinates. Rather she allows the activities of the organization/project to take their own course and trusts people to do what is needed. If the right people are hired or brought onto a project or organization -people with an internal locus of value and intrinsically high standards- then this mode of leadership might be effective. Problem is, this is rarely if ever achieved.
Projects, businesses or organizations with this style of leadership are destined to fail because this mode of leadership doesn’t take into consideration the following factors: 1) There are certain personality types that thrive on clear and directive guidance from people with formal authority. 2) The lack of direction and oversight almost always breeds a power vacuum in which informal authority can be seized by unscrupulous individuals with psychopathic tendencies. This is why workplace bullying is so prevalent in public bureaucratic institutions.