Transformational and Transactional Leadership identified in a one-to-one leader-follower relationship

During the past several weeks, I have been assisting my supervisor in organizing online webinar series that takes place every week. In this post, I will be using the theory of Transformational and Transactional Leadership to analyze my supervisor’s leadership role and her direct impact on me as a follower.

According to Judge and Piccolo (2004), Transformational leaders “offer a purpose that transcends short-term goals and focuses on higher order intrinsic needs” through one or more of the four dimensions: their charisma; inspirational motivations, intellectual stimulations, and individualized considerations imposed on their followers. Charisma was hard for me to identify because I was working remotely; besides, my supervisor and I worked on a one-to-one basis: all departments of the organization have at least one representative to form a group that specifically organizes the webinars; my supervisor is the only person in her department. Therefore, my role serves more as an assistant to her rather than a member of the group. In other words, she is my one and only leader, while I’m her one and only follower. Hence, I automatically identify her as my leader.

The online webinar series contains seven themes, ranging from environmental management to social welfare of the bamboo and rattan resources; while under each theme, there are five sessions. Webinars bring together scientists, experts, and professionals together for knowledge sharing and are held weekly since mid-June. Therefore, my supervisor is inspired to create a database that records the webinars’ useful information, including knowledge from the presentations and Q&A sessions, as well as feedback from the audience. She performed inspirational motivation by articulating the visions and purposes of creating such a database and the underlying meanings, which inspired me to carry out this task. She also practiced intellectual stimulation because instead of giving me a solid and specific structure of the database she designed, she delivered a big picture and let me devise how the framework looked. In this case, she offered flexibility and left me with much space to explore on my own. Therefore, I was motivated to go over each session of the webinars, transcribe the Q&A sessions, and identify the key information that would help construct a proper framework of the database for future reference. Finally, she showed individualized consideration to me after knowing that I was dealing with other personal issues simultaneously. She expressed concerns and often offered to spare some of my works that made me feel more comfortable and less stressed.

In terms of Transactional Leadership, which focuses on the “proper exchange of resources” (Judge and Piccolo, 2004), I identified it in a slightly different perspective from the relationship between my supervisor and I. Instead of the material rewards I get from my work – the stipends – my work performance is more related to the “soft rewards” I may get from her – recognition and a good reputation. After all, the stipends are fixed no matter how good or bad I behave on my work, but if I practice good working ethics and complete my tasks well and timely, I will be recognized by my leader, which is another form of reward. Therefore, even if the study shows a less direct correlation between Transactional Leadership than Transformational Leadership to leadership criteria (Judge and Piccolo, 2004), the contingent reward still plays an important role in my work and the relationship with my supervisor.