Transformational, Transactional, and Abusive Leadership

Author: Mary Bales

Most employees consider that destructive leaders are the worst part of their jobs ( Hogan & Kaiser, 2005). Transformational leaders have qualities that inspire and motivate employees.  These leaders tend to set clear goals, encourage, support, and recognize employee conversations. Transactional leaders tend to reward and punish in order to elicit compliance. They see employee products as currency and miss the whole person. Abusive leaders leverage either emotional and/or verbal abuse to motivate employees to produce.  Interactional justice (Schermerhorn) is defined by the degree of dignity and respect that is exchanged between leaders and employees (teachers and students, pastor and congregants, etc.).

Recently, researchers (Wang & Jiang, 2015) investigated the influence of abusive supervision on employee voice versus silence.  They considered the role of interactional justice in their study as a mediator of abuse and voice and found that in the face of abusive leadership, the degree of voice or silence was mediated by interactional justice.  Simply said, abusive leaders do not prioritize justice, respect, or dignity.

While this brief overview does not cover the extent to which the well-being at work research team considers the role of leadership, we are working to discover the role of leadership in promoting flourishing at work.   

Considering that you are the leader in your classroom, church, medical practice, or other organization, what type of leader are you? In what ways can you become transformational and ensure that interactional justice is a priority for you?