A debate often rages within workplaces across Kenya about whether task-oriented leadership or people-oriented leadership yields the best results.  In the literature too, researchers jostle between the two different leadership behaviour types.

Leaders strong in transactional skills hold three specific capabilities prevalent in social science research.  First, boundary spanning behaviors include external activities that encompass managing external transactions with staff.  Such transactions involve negotiating resource usage and goal setting with workers and other stakeholders, as well as scanning the workplace and industry environment for new information and interesting creative ideas to induce more resource access to the firm. 

Second, transactional leaders excel in setting disciplinary standards followed consistently, setting rewards for staff actions, and clarifying expectations when employees ask.  Good transactional leaders also stay on top of whether the organization’s rewards and disciplinary measures remain appropriate for the industry and for the behavioral targets that management desires.  A leader should not just set the goals and then go blind as to the effectiveness of such procedures.

Third, initiating behaviors aid a transactional leader whereby the manager plans, organizes, and controls subordinates.  Initiating activities structure tasks and highlight explicit attempts to achieve the organization’s targets.

Person-focused leadership behaviors, on the other hand, incorporate six different abilities that must be displayed by a manager.  Notice the different emphasis on the employee’s psychology first rather than the task first in comparison to the earlier three transactional behaviors.  First, a people oriented leader utilizes his or her emotional intelligence to perceive, appraise, express, and regulate their own emotions as well as in reading others.  An emotionally intelligent leader would more likely set appropriate targets for staff abilities and know what type of communication and responses are appropriate under different workplace conditions. 

Second, charismatic leaders hold enormous personal power from their magnetism that causes profound and astonishing effects on their subordinates.  People oriented managers with charisma utilize their highly articulate speech patterns to form impressions on followers to garnish support and excitement for a shared organizational vision while remaining sensitive to their employees’ needs and the constraints of the firm.

Third, transformational leaders convert their follower’s values, desires, and needs into team-first mentalities whereby the employees reduce their own self interests.  Fourth, empowering leaders exhibit behaviors’ that give their workers autonomy and responsibility instead of controlling power themselves.  Fifth, considerate leaders exhibit human-relations oriented behaviour highlighting two-way communication and listening with mutual respect.  Sixth, people-oriented leaders coach their subordinates so they enhance their own skills, capabilities, and career horizons through intentional one-on-one feedback, encouragement, and advice.

Now, on a five point scale, assess your own leadership behaviors’ in each of the above nine categories.  Give yourself a “1” if you feel you rarely display the behaviour, “2” if you occasionally invoke that behaviour, “3” if you frequently utilise such behaviour, “4” if you usually do indeed incorporate such behaviors in your daily leadership, and “5” if you almost always use the behaviour mentioned in your daily leadership journey at your firm.

Then, total your three transactional leadership behaviour individual scores and divide by three to arrive at your transactional average.  Also, total your six person-focused leadership behaviors answers, but this time divide by six to get your average.  Which of the two do you score highest in?  In order to get a more clear and accurate picture, have your colleagues and subordinates also rate you on the nine behaviors and see if their perceptions of you match your own self-perception.  A good leader should hold high self-awareness and not manage out of tune with reality.

Researchers Meltem Ceri-Booms, Petru Curşeu, and Leon Oerlemans exhaustively looked at dozens of studies on transactional versus people-focused leadership to decipher which types of leaders yield the best organizational performance and released their results earlier in 2017.  The answer surprised many in organizational behaviour science.  Definitively, both leadership types are required for optimal performance and a focus on any one of them alone, regardless of which one, will yield almost the same results as the other alone.  So, leaders across Kenya need to know their strengths but also shore up their weaknesses since the majority of managers only focus on one type of leadership behaviour over another.

Scott Bellows is the Chair of the New Economy Venture Accelerator (NEVA). He may be reached on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on Twitter: @ScottProfessor