Banner Default Image

Transactional versus Transformational Leadership in Local Government

Transactional versus Transformational Leadership in Local Government

18 January 2024

Inside Council

As leaders in local government embark on a new year, it's crucial to evaluate and refine leadership styles to effectively steer organisations toward success. Two prominent leadership paradigms, transactional and transformational, offer distinctive approaches to governance. Striking a balance between these approaches can be the key to fostering positive change while ensuring operational efficiency.

Transactional Leadership: Building on Stability

In the world of local government, transactional leadership plays a pivotal role in day-to-day operations. Rooted in clear expectations and structured processes, transactional leaders focus on well-defined tasks and performance metrics. This style ensures that essential functions run smoothly and efficiently, meeting the immediate needs of the community.

Transactional leaders establish clear roles, responsibilities, and performance expectations. In a local government context, this is the layer of delivery and continuous improvement in an organisation – where vision, strategy and plans meet structured activity and outcomes.

By establishing and implementing operational plans, working norms and protocols, transactional leaders provide a stable foundation for their teams, promoting delivery, reliability, and accountability.

Transformational Leadership: Catalysing Growth and Innovation

While transactional leadership ensures stability, transformational leadership drives progress and beneficial change. In local government, transformational leaders inspire change by fostering a shared vision and empowering teams to reach new heights. This approach is essential for navigating the evolving landscape of public service.

Transformational leaders encourage creativity, adaptability, and a forward-thinking mindset. They motivate employees by identifying the vision, goals and mission of the organisation, connecting their work to a larger purpose, instilling a sense of pride and commitment. In the context of local government, this might involve spearheading initiatives to identify and address emerging community needs, implementing sustainable practices, or embracing technology to enhance public services.

Striking the Balance: The Winning Formula

For senior leaders in local government, the challenge lies in integrating both transactional and transformational elements into their leadership repertoire. Successful governance requires a delicate balance between continuous improvement and transformational change.

Establishing robust systems and procedures ensures the smooth day-to-day functioning of local government. However, it's equally vital to cultivate a culture that embraces change and continual improvement. A successful leader navigates the dual roles of guardian of stability and champion of progress, effectively responding to the needs of the community while preparing for the challenges of the future.

As you embark on the journey of leadership development in the new year, consider this dual approach. Evaluate your strengths as a transactional leader and explore opportunities to infuse transformational elements into your leadership style. By doing so, you'll be better equipped to lead your team through the complexities of local governance, achieving the delicate balance necessary for sustained success.


Leading Roles offer bespoke in-house Lunch and Learn programs specifically designed for leaders and emerging leaders specific to the local government sector. We also undertake organisational, team and individual leadership capability review and bespoke leadership development coaching.


For more information call or email today: 1800 088 000 or