12 Characteristics of the Transactional Leadership Style

Transactional leadership allows leaders to have a fairly neutral presence over their workers for a balanced business. Using this form of leadership allows you to be both fair and realistic in your expectations and actions to create good results. Follows these 12 Transactional leadership characteristics to see positive results in your leadership.

1. Reasonable
Dealing with others in a transactional style requires you to think and act reasonably when making decisions. You want those you lead to follow you with confidence and understanding in what you are asking. Being reasonable in your requests and actions will help promote this interaction.

If someone does something good in their role, make sure to recognize it accordingly and give them some recognition. It is also reasonable to question someone’s mistakes while still being reasonable in dealing with them.

2. Consistent
In a similar sense to being a reasonable leader, you also want to act consistently over time. Making irrational decisions every day will lead people to question your consistency and have more issues arise down the road. Stay consistent by acting similarly when reacting to the same situation multiple times.

If you praise someone one day and then scold them for the same thing another day, people will begin to doubt your consistency. This lack of consistency makes everyone’s job harder as nobody knows what is expected.

3. Realistic
Being realistic in what you are looking for is one of the most essential characteristics of a transactional relationship. Since you are asking things of people and then giving praise or rewards, you want to make sure that you are being reasonable in both what you are asking and what you give back in return.

It isn’t advised to have someone do something that your yourself wouldn’t do and then get mad when it isn’t done properly. Make sure you set realistic goals and expectations for you and your workers, so everyone knows what to do.

4. Organized
Being organized is a characteristic that should be embodied by all leaders and comes into play especially in transactional relationships. When you are delegating tasks and watching over many different people you must ensure that everyone is staying organized and you can see what is getting done.

Having an organized idea of what is getting done at any given moment can help you better plan for the future and make necessary adaptations. It is your job to stay organized so everyone else can do their jobs as effectively a possible.

5. Direct
Being direct can often come across as harsh or forceful, but great transactional leaders can find a happy medium. Being direct means that you are open and honest about what you expect while leaving out the bs that nobody has the time to listen to.

It is your job as a leader to give people your expectations and a clear task so that they can help get you and the company what needs to be done. People also appreciate direct orders as it makes them feel that you respect their intelligence and don’t need to sugar coat anything.

6. Passive
While this may seem like a contrary point to being direct, being passive is important to transactional leadership in another way. While it is your job to observe and look over others, you need to take a passive role sometimes so that people can work freely and learn on their own without you.

If you see a serious issue then you should step in, but letting people work independently as you take a passive role produces great results. Be passive to let others learn and only step in when you need to.

7. Stern
Being a leader sometimes means putting your foot down and making sure things are in order. Being stern does not mean being a jerk, but it does mean that you expect things to get done the way they were supposed to when assigned. It may not make you everyone’s favorite, but you will get respect.

Being stern with all members of a team and even yourself allows everyone to see that you act the same with everyone and hold everybody to the same standard. Being stern only earns respect if it is equal among everyone.

8. Open
A leader who is unwilling to listen and adapt will soon be overthrown by someone who will. Being open to ideas and feedback will allow people to give you some suggestions that could improve your company and give you a personal improvement that would never have occurred to you naturally.

Taking advice and criticism can be a great teaching tool as you look to learn from those who work with you every day. Being open to others will also make others more comfortable with bringing things to your attention when they have something important to say.

9. Rewarding
A transactional leader is based on the idea of rewards and punishment, so being generous with praise will make you well-liked. Acknowledging when someone does a great job or goes beyond what they needed to do will give them and everyone else a boost of morale that can inspire the whole office.

Being rewarding can come in many shapes and sizes and people will work harder if you offer bigger rewards. Still remain careful though because giving out awards without hard work being at play will lead to complacency and lazy work.

10. Motivating
Sometimes the only reason people need a leader is that they need someone to push and motivate the team. The energy you portray and carry out in your everyday routine will be contagious to others, so motivating people to work harder and smarter will give a boost to people when it’s needed most.

Showing up early and being your best possible self will not go unnoticed as everyone looks to you as inspiration for what can be. Leaders who pull others up through motivation and action are always some of the most liked and respected.

11. Honest
Nobody wants to be lied to by a leader, and a transactional relationship requires both parties to be honest and open about what is to be expected. Being honest about the gains one could see from completing a task will give them reasonable motivation to act and work accordingly.

Even if something is going poorly, people would rather hear honest bad news than good news that isn’t real. Staying honest will give people realistic goals and expectations to adhere to.

12. Structured
Lastly, you must be a structured leader when being transactional because it falls on you to make the plan and see that it gets completed. Knowing who needs to do what and who needs to be getting what will make it easier for everyone to see what needs to be done and how to do it.

Structure your people and workload evenly for more efficient work and the results will speak for themselves.


Taking the time to create a balanced leadership platform that both ensure positive reinforcement and compliance is just what the transactional platform was designed to do. Try out these 12 characteristics in your own leadership to see just how they can benefit you.

Author Biography
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.