A psychological theory, proposed by Abraham Maslow in the 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation," which depicts lower- and higher-level human needs in the form of a pyramid.
Transactional leaders focus on managing and supervising their employees and on facilitating group performance. The role of a transactional leader is primarily passive, in that it sets policy and assessment criteria and then intervenes only in the event of performance problems or needs for exceptions. Transactional leaders seek to maintain compliance within existing goals and expectations and the current organizational culture. They are extrinsic motivators who encourage success through the use of rewards and punishment.
Respond to deviations from expected outcomes and identify corrective actions to improve performance
Psychologist Abraham Maslow characterized people's motivating factors in terms of needs. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs describes levels of needs ranging from the most essential, such as physiological (e.g., food and sleep) and safety, to higher levels of esteem and self-actualization. Transactional leadership satisfies lower-level needs but addresses those at a high level only to a limited degree. As such, transactional leaders' behavior appeals to only a portion of followers' motivating factors.
Transactional leadership can be very effective in the right settings. Coaches of sports teams are a good example of appropriate transactional leadership. The rules for a sports team allow for little flexibility, and adherence to organizational norms is key; even so, effective coaches can motivate their team members to play and win, even at risk to themselves.