Transformational vs. Transactional Leadership: Which is Better?

Female leaders have a line they constantly have to toe: being empathetic to those they lead without being labeled as an “emotional” person. Keri Ladouceur, founder of New Ground Network, coaches on how to lead with emotional intelligence, and lays out the pros and cons of transformational leadership and transactional leadership.

You can listen to this entire conversation with Keri on our podcast, Work, Love, Pray! Listen below or click here to find your preferred listening platform.

How can women use their emotional health in empathetic leadership without being called ’emotional?’

That is such a good question. We have to give ourselves permission to invite those parts of ourselves to the table. I have found in my own leadership journey that the times when I feel like this trope about emotional women is true is when I have not tended to my own emotions and they’ve bottled up and come out sideways in some way. The best gift that we can give to our teams is to pursue our own emotional health first. I had a really rough day recently, and there were some things I was really angry about, and there were some things that I was really sad about, and I had to take a walk and actually talk to a friend and do the work to process and validate my own anger and my own frustration. Had I not done that, those emotions could have come out sideways.

The number one best gift that we can give ourselves is to tend to those parts of our ourselves. When we do that, we’re able to provide safety for ourselves and invite the men and women on our teams to come to us. Emotional awareness helps us understand that when we’re leading someone, we’re leading them at work, but we’re also leading their whole selves and what’s happening at home in their family life, or grief that they’re navigating over losing a parent, or financial obstacles.

When we’re able to be in touch with our whole selves, we’re able to lead people more effectively. They will feel cared for, they will care about the mission of the organization more, and chances are good that they’re going to stay engaged and stay with your organization longer. Now, I don’t say that we should lead this way just because it does lead to good outcomes. I think we should lead this way because we should be whole and healing people that want to see people on our teams be whole and healing.

Which is more impactful when launching and leading a movement: transactional leadership or transformational leadership?

Within God’s kingdom, how we do what we do matters as much as, if not more than, what we do. How we embody our beliefs within God’s kingdom matters as much as, if not more than, if we totally believe. I think transactional leadership can sometimes look at the bottom line and be attentive to if things are moving in the right direction. Transformational leadership will also take a step back and say, is what we’re producing harmful to our environment in ways that we want to be held accountable to? Are we objectifying our employees to get them to produce more and more?  

Transformational leadership is definitely more potent than transactional leadership. It requires us to look at the big picture, and to have a more holistic view over what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. When we care about the means as much as we care about the ends, we lead more robust and more fruitful movements in the kinds of impact that can get activated and unleashed from transformational leadership. I think transformational leadership is more anointed by God’s spirit and I just think it has more potential to lead to the flourishing of all people, which again, is what we’re called to do as believers and followers of Jesus. That was the work and ministry of Jesus—to bring God’s kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. We are invited to embody those values of God’s kingdom, and when we do, we can’t actually stop our leadership from being transformational.  

After a movement has launched, what are some milestones or checkpoints that the movement leader should be dedicated to checking in with to make sure that they haven’t veered off-course? And if they have gone a little astray, what should they do?

When I do coaching and consulting work with team leaders, I love to have both quantitative and qualitative ways of checking in on progress and goals. I wrote a book called Together as a Team that’s all about values-based leadership. The quantitative stuff is important because numbers and data help us tell a story, right? They help frame in black and white which areas need attention, which areas need improvement, what’s thriving, what’s barely surviving, etc. But more than just the quantitative data points, we need qualitative data points as well.

I love to coach teams on defining what their values are and then learning how to embody those values as a team when decisions get made. What we actually find is that all of us, as we’re making decisions, we have this sort of internal grid that we go through when we’re making decisions. Those are our values. When we work as a team to define our values, those values provide a data point for us to check in on milestones or checkpoints along the way to decide how are we doing. You could have really good quantitative data and then qualitatively stop and check in and spend some time defining reality with your team…and realize you’re not actually living into your values.

Having checkpoints is critically important. There are questions we should regularly be asking ourselves as leaders about our health as much as our growth. There are questions teams should be asking themselves, too, that should be both quantitative and qualitative. If there’s a gap, figure out what has not become true about your organization and then rewrite the values. I tend to think that truth is the kindest form of love we can offer someone, and as leaders, we’ve got to be willing to hear, receive, and speak truth. Checkpoints are critically important, but having them be both quantitative and qualitative is really important if you want to embody more transformational leadership than transactional leadership.

Keri Ladouceur is a pastor, teacher, incessantly curious question asker, and bridge building peacemaker. She believes the fullness of the gospel is liberative good news for all of creation and longs to cultivate new faith spaces of mutuality and flourishing for all people.

She is founder of New Ground Network, where she co-conspires with pastors, denominations, and organizational leaders to clarify and align around their purpose. One of her favorites roles is organizational coach where she is part dreamer, instigator, activator and team counselor. She has an MA in New Testament from Northern Seminary, and her imagination for the Beloved Community has been primarily shaped by her native heritage and liberation thinkers and theologians.

She dreams of the Church being a life-giving community of flourishing that activates the people of God to join Christ in the redemption and restoration of all things.