We can think about varieties of leadership in the following categories: transactional, transforming, designated, emergent, and collaborative. Transactional leadership involves a straightforward exchange of value between leaders and followers, as noted in several of the processes described below. One obvious form of transactional leadership takes place routinely in the business world, as employees agree to perform certain kinds of work in exchange for specified amounts of salary or wages. The exchange is useful to both parties but leaves both parties essentially unchanged as a result.

Transforming leadership involves a more complex relationship wherein a leader’s example and his or her call to action motivates exceptional behavior, normally in pursuit of moral and ethical values driven by empathy and concern for other people within the larger human community. The greatest leaders in human history have been transforming leaders like the moral prophets, founders of world religions, and exemplars of democratic principles like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. Transforming leadership tends to generate psychological and emotional change among followers, which is why we call it “transforming.” This is also the kind of leadership we celebrate within the Transforming Leadership curriculum.


Transforming leadership refers not only to the transforming power of effective leadership, but also to the need to transform some of the outmoded ways we've traditionally thought about, responded to, and exercised the power and the responsibility inherent in leadership roles.  Our main concern will be the big picture, the underlying principles, the spirit of human enterprise, and the general direction of things. In this section we'll try to draw the outlines of the biggest pictures we can envision, so you can fill in the details as they apply to your own life and work.

Designated leadership comes with a title and an official description or at least a clear expectation of duties and responsibilities. Others in the group will typically recognize an obligation or at least an expectation to follow the designated leader’s lead and obey the designated leader’s orders.

Emergent leadership refers to leaders who have no official title and no specific source of organizational power but who recognize and attempt to solve problems that are not being solved or even addressed by designated leaders and other group members. Emergent leaders who succeed in solving problems and instigating progress for their group and their community may become designated leaders in the aftermath. One of the most obvious examples of emergent leadership features the North Americans who rebelled against British authority in the late eighteenth century. As they organized to fight for political freedom, emergent leaders became designated leaders among the American revolutionaries; after winning the war, many of those leaders became designated leaders in the new American nation. One of the most obvious examples of this phenomenon was George Washington, who served as a colonial British military officer in his youth, then served as an emergent leader of the anti-colonial American army, and then ultimately as the first designated President of the United States of America.

Collaborative Leadership. Collaborative leadership galvanizes the cooperative power of groups and organizations working together for common goals, just as leadership in general attempts to galvanize the cooperation of individual members of a group, organization, or community. A useful definition of collaborative leadership basically tweaks the primary definition of leadership itself: collaborative leadership is a reciprocal process of encouraging and supporting relationships within which people and organizations can pursue a variety of shared goals over extended periods of time.


Collaborative leadership is a natural extension and enrichment of democratic leadership. In the global village we now inhabit, we are teaching each other and learning from each other to appreciate the contributions of people in all cultures, religions, ethnicities, and political systems. The attitudes and viewpoints of women are revolutionizing leadership theory and practice after millennia of male chiefs, kings, and emperors. Our use of tools now extends to extremely sophisticated technology in medicine, communication, the professions, and education, amplifying our power to co-create and encouraging cultural evolution. We have come a very long way, but we surely have a long way yet to go.