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Servant Theory of Leadership VS Transactional Theory of Leadership

Discuss about the Servant vs Transactional Theory of Leadership.

A person who leads a group of people to achieve a set target is known as a leader. He leads his team with a vision, persuasion, inspiration, and personal connections. The art of leading a team to attain a result that would not be possible without leader’s effort is known as the leadership style or a theory of the leader. The leadership theory is the characteristics of a leader which make him a unique person in the group of people (Antonakis & House, 2014). Here in this report, two different leadership theories will be discussed. The servant theory and the transactional theory are two types of common leadership theories. A comparison between the two theories and how these theories contribute to leading is a part of the report. Many big and famous leaders follow such leadership styles. Two examples of such leaders are Mahatma Gandhi and Donald Trump their personality traits, characteristics, and achievements are included in the report (Brungardt, 2011).

Servant Theory says that the most effective, successful, and influential leaders are servants of their people. The leader who follows the servant theory of leadership gets the targeted aim of the organization through whole-hearted cooperation and attention is given to the followers and their needs. Most of the leadership, style emphasizes on just influencing and motivating the people working under the leader (Daft, 2011). But, servant leader emphasizes on collaborating, gaining trust, trusting others, empathizing, and ethically doing the work. According to the servant theory of leadership a leader should desire to serve others in a better way rather than attaining more power in the organization. As per servant’s theory of leadership, if a leader takes care of his followers and their needs that the followers will also reciprocate by working in a team, showing better work performance and deeply engaging themselves in the organization’s betterment (Dalglish & Miller, 2010).

 A transactional leader values structure, and order in an organization. A transactional leadership is more ideal for a military operation, managing a large firm, or leading international level projects that need rules, regulation, and discipline to be followed to achieve the goals on a targeted time, or to move people or supplies in an organized manner. Places, where creativity or innovative ideas are needed their transactional leadership theory, will prove to be useless (Dartey-Baah, 2015). People who are self-motivated work well under the transactional leadership as they prefer work in a structured and directed environment. The main focus of a transactional leadership is in the results, or the aim set by the organization. On a general basis, a transactional leader has a formal position and authority in an organization so that he can direct people to work as per the given instructions. The leader following transactional leadership has set criteria for his team members as per the project requirements. A transactional leader prefers to work with experienced people who know their job and get motivated by the penalty-reward system (Davenport, 2014).

Comparison of Characteristics of Transactional and Servant Leadership Theories

While comparing the two leadership styles the primary difference that occurs is the focus of the leader in both the theories. A servant leader focuses on his followers, their needs, and the organizational aim comes secondary for him. When referring to a transactional leader the prime focus of a transactional leader is totally towards the organization and the objectives set by the organization. The point till which a leader shifted his focus of leadership towards the objectives of an organization and the followers is the distinguishing point that clarifies the leadership style of a leader to transactional or servant style leadership (de Vries, 2012). When comparing the characteristic of both the leadership style, then transactional leadership aims at short-term goals of the organization and the leader prefer structured procedures and policies to be followed in the organization. He has certain rules that he follows and wants his subordinates should also follow. He does not want things to go wrong in any manner, and if anything goes wrong then he doesn’t hesitate to give a punishment for the wrong doing (Frey Horn, 2009). Rewards for following the correct procedures and rules and regulations are also given by the leader following transactional leadership style. A transactional leader is inflexible and does not want any change in his working and work environment. He prefers working with people who know what they are doing and are experienced. The subordinates should not question the rules set by the leader. When a leader follows servant leadership theory, then the characteristics traits he shows includes listening to the team members working under him without judging them for it (Hinkin & Schriesheim, 2008). A servant is always an authentic person who is open to all suggestion and ready to help his subordinates. Whatever a servant leader does is as per the ethics and can be accounted for. A servant leader does not work like a boss or a leader but as a part of the team. Building a community and appreciating the work of team-members is one of the characteristics of a servant-leader. A servant-leader shares his power with his group and help in developing people by making them learn the work while they work for achieving the organization’s objectives (Lennick & Kiel, 2006).

The advantages of following Transactional leadership is that people who are self-motivated and follows instructions word by word are rewarded for their work. When applied by the management of a large organization, transactional leadership helps in creating an unambiguous structure of the company. Systems where repetitive tasks are required and an infinite reproducible environment is demanded their transactional leadership will prove to be successful leadership theory (McCarthy, 2015).  Under Transactional leadership short-term goals are achieved very quickly. Workers have a clear idea of rewards and penalties under the transactional leadership. The advantages of following servant leadership theory are that it helps in building a very strong team which led to a great team-work and efforts. Servant leader listens to all the members of his team which allows him to look at a bigger picture. A servant leader can build excellent rapport and relationship with his subordinates or team members. Servant leadership leads to create a high level of loyalty from followers towards their leader. Servant leadership works on trust and ethics which help in binding a team together and encourages a high degree of engagement (Mumford, Campion, & Morgeson, 2007).

The Comparison of Advantages of following Transactional or Servant Leadership Theories

The disadvantages of following transactional leadership theory are like the rewards given to the workers for their work performance are either in a form of perks or on a monetary basis. These rewards are sometimes liked by the employees, but sometimes their needs are different then the perks they are getting. The set goals and target of the organization limit the creativity and innovativeness of the employees. They don’t get a chance to show their other talents and skills to the company. Any kind of personal initiative from the employee towards the organization is not rewarded as it is not considered by the transactional leader (Munshi, 2010). The disadvantages of following servant leadership theory are like the companies who work on a short-term basis and want result very quickly will not prefer to follow servant leadership style as it is good for long-term basis but not for the quick result. A servant leadership theory is taken as a long-term strategy which is very much depended on building loyalty and trust of the workers for their leader to get the maximum output from them; this whole relation building process takes up a long time. Large organizations do not want to follow the servant leadership style as it needs a leadership style that can help in maintaining the high degree of organizational structure to survive in the market which is not possible in servant leadership theory (Munshi, 2010).

The Transactional Leadership Theory (Donald Trump)

Donald Trump is a well-known business man famous for his eccentric and unique business tactics. He displays a different leadership style. Very early Donald Trump started his business journey by developing his personal brand which can be seen in every building of real estate owned by Mr. Trump. He is a risk taker and powerful person, but still, he takes smart business decisions. All these businesses skills has made him a very good leader. The leadership style Donald Trump follows is transactional leadership style. Donald Trump believes in giving a reward in exchange for the work done by his employees (Nye, 2013). In Trump’s organization, a reward can be in the form of a better job, a promotion, or a raise. The employees of Donald Trump’s organization work hard for him to get recognition and advancement in exchange for their dedication. There are many examples that reflect Donald Trump’s transactional leadership in his work life. Matthew Calamari is a great example; Donald Trump has rewarded his security guard for his dedication towards his job. Now Matthew Calamari is the vice president of one of the projects of Trump organization. It was Donald Trump’s vision that made him recognize his employee’s potential and proved to be a success (Page & Dittmer, 2016).

The Comparison of Disadvantages of following Transactional or Servant Leadership Theories

The leader traits that Donald Trump has are as follows: -

Verbal Fluency- Donald Trump has such an invincible aura that everybody listens what he want to say. He is so convincing that he can sell and articulate his idea to all. This leadership trait is very important in the business in which Donald Trump deals.
Ability to Solve Problems- an effective leader should always be ready to face problems and to find a solution for it. Donald Trump never phases when a problem arise in front of him like when he has had to cover a debt of more than 9 billion dollars which he overcame through his focus, and hard work (Schmid, 2006).
Awareness of needs- an effective and efficient leader understands the needs of his workers and tries to fulfill it. More than 20,000 employees depend on Donald Trump for their jobs. It is Donald Trump’s responsibility to take right decision regarding his business as he has 20,000 homes to look after.

Personal Power- Donald Trump displays his power through his work. He displays his name in every property he constructed across the world. A leader should have a power because people like to follow a powerful person, to learn how to be successful (Sethuraman & Suresh, 2014).
Intelligence- one doesn’t need to be a genius for being a successful leader, but knowledge about his business and things associated with is very important. Donald Trump is a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania but the maximum knowledge he gained while working with his father.
Expert Power- a leader, should be a master of the field he is leading in. Donald Trump is a leader in all sense in his field. He master’s the real estate business. He is aware of all the tricks that are written in any book associated with real estate. His expert power in real estate has brought success to him.
Legitimate Power- Donald Trump carries a power of recognition that he gained by running his own business efficiently and successfully. In the real estate business, Donald Trump has the authority give a final verdict, which shows the total power he has in his business field.
Donald Trump also has legitimate power. This type of power comes from your standing in the organization. Well, when you are the number one person running the show and have the final say in anything you do, that is total power (Sun, 2013).

In India, there are many great leaders, but when it comes to finding the best out of them, and then the name of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi always comes on top. In India Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is known as Mahatma Gandhi for his participation in the freedom struggle of India. Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi India got its freedom back. He has studied law and practiced it in South Africa where he realized that he want to work people’s benefit rather than earning a profit (Trim, 2016). Then Gandhi’s outlook changed, and he looked forward to rendering service rather than making profit. In South Africa, he fought against racial discrimination by using weapons like non-violence and satyagraha. Later he came to India and lead Indian to fight against British to gain independence with the help of non-violence and satyagraha. His servant leadership style forced the British to free India. Mahatma Gandhi was the most humble leader in Indian history. He never harmed anyone through his fight against British, and he asked his followers also to do the same. He went to jail sometimes along with his followers. His country was his priority, and he worked really hard to gain freedom for his country. Mahatma Gandhi never forced his followers to follow his lead, but most of them were pleased to be a part of Mahatma Gandhi’s freedom fight. He gave his whole life to his country and his followers. That is the reason he was named as the ‘The Father of the Nation’ (Antonakis & House, 2014). The leadership traits of Mahatma Gandhi are as follows:-

Being a Servant- Mahatma Gandhi is the best example of servant leadership. For him leadership never mattered he always thought himself to be nation’s servant. He found pleasure in serving people.

Acts of service- in his youth Gandhi taught English to Indians living in South Africa without any fees so that they can also live a life with equality. He uses to serve patients in a hospital daily for two hours when he was in South Africa. Fully knowing the risks of black plague he volunteered to nurse the patients when it struck Indians in South Africa (Brungardt, 2011).

Integrity- Mahatma Gandhi was an honest person. He never used any kind of favors offered to him by big and famous people of his time. He maintained his integrity by living a very simple life and spending most of it in the fight for freedom of India.

If decide then complete it- Mahatma Gandhi believed and followed a characteristic which say that if decided and taken the first step than never look back and work hard to complete the task taken up. There were many hindrances that came in the path of freedom, but Mahatma Gandhi never stopped trying for it (Daft, 2011).

Power to inspire- no doubt that Mahatma Gandhi had a power of inspiring and motivating others. He made masses of India believe in his vision of getting independence of India with the help of non-violence, and satyagraha. And actually, he was able to attain his goals with the help of his followers (Dalglish & Miller, 2010).


A leader is not born with the qualities to lead. With time and experience, he learns the various skills required for the effective leadership. The various characteristics mingled together and formed the leadership style followed by the leader to attain his goals. Different situations and circumstances need a different type of leadership theory to be followed to solve the problem or to reach the objectives. Transactional leadership theory and servant leadership theory are poles apart if compared with each other. But, one thing is clear that the ultimate goal of the leader following either of the leadership theory is to achieve the targets set by the organization.


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