Transformation, transactional and authentic approaches refer to different forms of follower motivation. They however differ from each other in many aspects.  They all however have drawbacks that limit their usefulness. This paper intends to advocate the thesis that transformation leadership is more effective due to its emphasis on intrinsic motivation and follower development (Northouse 2013).

While transformational leadership is concerned with emotions, values, ethics, standards and long-term goals, transactional leadership is interested with results alone for a, mostly, financial reward. This implies that while transformation leadership is concerned with the welfare of the follower and works towards making the environment of the follower as conducive as possible, the transactional leadership only strives towards obtaining results from the follower. On the other hand, authentic leadership is more about service by example. It endeavors more towards developing a true leader.

Transformational leadership helps the follower to do more than expected through motivation on different levels. First, it raises the follower’s level of consciousness about the importance and value of specified and idealized goals (Northouse, 2013). Secondly, transformational leadership tries to get the followers go above their own self interest to those of their organization. Finally, it also works towards helping the follower to address a higher level of needs. On the other hand, transactional leadership has no motivation aspect. The only motivation that results from transactional leadership is the urge to attain a bigger reward. Authentic leadership is about uprightness and leading by example. It strives to guide the followers through their struggles by example.

Transformational leadership uses idealized influence or charisma as its emotional component. This component describes leaders who are strong role models and with whom followers want to associate. The leaders have strong moral standards and can be trusted to make the right decisions. They provide their followers with a sense of direction and vision. Transactional leadership on the other hand lacks this aspect as motivation is only derived from a mutual exchange between the leader and the follower (Simola, Barling, & Turner, 2010). Authentic leadership derives its solutions from the material of the leader’s life so as to connect with the followers(Ladkin & Taylor, 2010). They therefore incorporate some memory aspects in their leadership by advising the followers through his own life experiences. In this aspect, authentic leadership slightly overlaps with transformational leadership in that an emotional attribute is introduced.

According to Northouse (2013), a transformational leader is dominant and self-confident and has a desire to influence and strong moral values. On the other hand, a transactional leader does not need any of these as his leadership is based on a reward system. While the transformational leader strives to work on his moral values, the transactional leader strives to achieve results higher than the last using his reward system. When results are not achieved, a transactional leader takes corrective action while a transformational leader seeks the reasons behind the drop in results and helps his followers work on it. An authentic leader, like the transformationala leader seeks the root of the problem and seeks to correct it.

One advantage of the authentic  ledership is the trust it commands from the followers. Authentic leadership commands trust as this person has been, or seems to have been, in the situation of the follower. Thus writes Northouse

    In recent times, upheavals in society have energized a tremendous demand for authentic leadership. The destruction on 9/11, corporate scandals at companies like WorldCom and Enron, and massive failures in the banking industry have all created fear and uncertainty. People feel apprehensive and insecure about what is going on around them, and, as a result, they long for bona fide leadership they can trust and for leaders who are honest and good. People’s demands for trustworthy leadership make the study of authentic leadership timely and worthwhile. (Northouse 2013, 253)

Considering how important it has become, not just to the followers but to the public, it has become a very important to nurture that part of leadership. However, true transformational leadership contains this aspect of leadership. The transformational leader goes beyond results and is morally upright and trustworthy. Transactional leadership, however, is different as it does not comprise of this aspect of leadership.

            Another factor that runs across both transformational and authentic leadership is inspiration motivation. This is where the leader communicates to his followers the growth in results he is expecting from them as a team and individually (Northouse, 2013). They communicate to the importance of striving towards a common vision in the organisation. Transactional motivation instead employs the conditional reward system and management by exception to motivate. Followers who show failure are called upon to do better while those who show good or improved results are rewarded. Management by exception uses more negative reinforcement patterns than it does use the positive reinforcement patterns.

Another aspect that does not go across the board is intellectual stimulation. This is the leadership that stimulates followers to be innovative and go out of the way to try new things to see if better results are achieved or problems are solved. This aspect is present in transformational leadership and authentic leadership but is missing in transactional leadership.

Individualised considerations are another way that followers are supported and motivated in transformational and authentic leadership. In both cases, leaders listen to their followers and advise them on how best to solve their issues.  The leader may then use delegation to help followers solve their problems.

The results achieved by these forms of leadership are also varied. Transformational leadership motivates followers to achieve beyond their expected results while transactional leadership work towards achieving just the expected results. Authentic leadership motivates the followers to achieve as much as their leader does or more. The role model determines how much is to be achieved. In most cases authentic leaders are high achievers and so the results they motivate are high as well.

The transactional leadership focuses primarily on the reward system. However, the transformational leadership goes beyond just the exchange of rewards and incorporates giving attention to the needs and growth of followers. The transformational leadership therefore seeks to achieve growth both on the organisation and the followers. It turns out that the transformational leadership augments the leadership model of transactional leadership (Northouse, 2013).

            Authentic leaders are primarily trusted and preferred due to their moral sense of responsibility and a connection they make with their followers by making their needs and values important to them. Transformational leadership also has this aspect which shows that transformational leadership also incorporates the most important aspects of the authentic leadership model.

            Transformational leadership comes out as the strongest of the three systems. However, it has its own weaknesses. First, it lacks a clear delimitation of dimensions and seems to overlap with other forms of leadership. Second, transformational leadership treats leadership as a personal disposition or personal trait rather than a behaviour that people can learn and change. It being a trait, it becomes a problem as it is difficult to change personality traits (Northouse, 2013).

            In conclusion, each of the three approaches of motivation has very important attributes. These attributes make them preferable by different organisations in terms of cost and delivery. However, for a standard company which is after results, the transformational form of leadership is the strongest as it rotates around the same followers who produce results. It also incorporates the most important attributes of each of the other motivation approaches. Any follower will therefore prefer to work in an organisation that uses the transformational form of leadership.


Northouse, P.G. 2013 Leadership: theory and practice. 6th ed. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGEPublications, Inc.

Schaubroeck, J., Lam, S.K. & Cha, S.E. 2007 ‘Embracing transformational leadership: team values and the impact of leader behavior on team performance’, Journal of Applied Psychology, 92 (4), pp.1020-1030

Van Vugt, M., Hogan, R. & Kaiser, R.B. 2008 ‘Leadership, followership, and evolution: some lessonsfrom the past’, American Psychologist, 63 (3), pp.182-196

Fifty Lessons, Ltd. (Producer). 2010 Good leaders are authentic leaders.

Fifty Lessons, Ltd. (Producer.) (2010) If you’re going to lead, trust your judgement

Ladkin, D. 2010 ‘Enacting the “true self”: towards a theory of embodied authentic leadership’, The Leadership Quarterly, 21 (1), pp.64-74,

Simola, S.K., Barling, J. & Turner, N. 2010 ‘Transformational leadership and leader moral orientation:contrasting an ethic of justice and an ethic of care’, The Leadership Quarterly, 21 (1), pp.179-188

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