Are Transformational and Transactional Types of Leadership Compatible? A Two-wave Study of Employee Motivation

Poul Aaes Nielsen*, Stefan Boye, Ann Louise Holten, Christian Bøtcher Jacobsen, Lotte Bøgh Andersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Transformational and transactional leadership strategies have become prominent in public administration research, but it is unclear whether they are compatible or whether they could undermine each other. We examine the combined and interactive effects of transformational and three types of transactional leadership (contingent verbal rewards, material rewards, and sanctions) on employee work motivation, conceptualized as work engagement and intrinsic motivation. Panel analyses using repeated measures of 385 leaders and 3,797 employees show that transformational leadership and contingent verbal rewards increased employee motivation. However, simultaneous use of contingent material rewards undermined the benefits of transformational leadership. Thus, the motivational potential of service- or community-oriented visions was undercut when leaders also appealed to extrinsic material motives. This could help explain why financial incentives do not always have the expected benefits in public organizations. We therefore argue that research and practice should pay more attention to how different leadership strategies work in combination.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)413-428
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

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