Transactional vs. Transformational Leadership in the Workplace

I had many different leaders throughout my 11 weeks at my internship and each of them had a different leadership style. My direct supervisors were new to being leaders and had not developed clear styles yet. Most of them relied on transactional leadership to motivate their interns. We were often told to do tasks without any extra information given to us. The tasks had to be done and the interns were the ones to get it done, but we weren’t necessarily told why these tasks needed to be done and how they fit into the bigger picture.

When you are an intern, you are often given seemingly meaningless tasks and it is hard to garner the motivation to complete these tasks. When I transitioned from being a PR intern to an Advertising intern, I lost a lot of motivation because of the new tasks that I was given. There were some days that all I would do was print some papers and measure some ads that I knew my supervisor had already measured and approved. I did not see a lot of purpose in the work that I was doing and my supervisors didn’t see it as a priority to make sure I was getting the most out of my internship. My reward for doing these tasks was simply a paycheck, rather than having the reward of learning and improving my skills.

In PR, however, my boss’s boss, Devan, had a more transformational style of leadership. Devan, the Women’s Manager, had a lot of experience in fashion and had worked at several companies before coming to Louis Vuitton. She knew how to best manage and motivate a team through this experience. While we did not interact with Devan a lot at the beginning, there was one week where nearly everyone was out of the office because of an exhibition in L.A. During that week, we worked really closely with Devan and it was a lot of hard work because so many people were missing. Devan make sure to not let the hard work get too overwhelming and always kept a positive and calm attitude when working with us. Devan’s attitude was encouraging and refreshing to see because we were used to our supervisor Rashida’s stressful and frantic attitude that would come out when there was a lot to do in the office.

After everyone came back to work, Devan emailed all the interns and thanked us for all of our help and our contributions thus far. The email was the first positive feedback we had gotten from any of our supervisors and really motivated us to want to do better and prove to Devan that we deserved her praise. In a fast-paced and sometimes overwhelming environment, transformational leadership really helped us get through the days because there was more motivation than just a paycheck. I wanted to learn as much as I could during my internship and I wanted to show my progress to my supervisors at the conclusion of my internship. I was able to have this motivation mainly because of Devan and the respect that I had for her and her leadership style.