What Is Transitional Leadership? (With Pros And Cons)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 27 December 2022

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Transitional leadership is a leadership style that focuses on specific projects or goals. Their role in organisations is to focus on major transformations like major corporate restructuring or acquisitions or mergers. Understanding this type of leadership is important for you to manage any transformation projects you may encounter in your management career. In this article, we explore what such kind of a leadership is and look at a few examples, review a few characteristics of transitional leaders, cover the different pros and cons of it and analyse a few tips to develop such leadership skills.

Related: What Is Transformational Leadership? (With Characteristics)

What Is Transitional Leadership?

Transitional leadership is a leadership style that focuses on handling specific corporate challenges. Organisations bring in transitional leaders to focus on major transformations like major corporate restructuring, acquisitions or mergers, sales of a company or start-up of a new division. These transformations are usually measurable and such leaders work with well-defined objectives to measure their performance. These leaders are experts in their respective fields and often come into organisations as executive-level or board-level consultants.

Related: What Is Transactional Leadership?

Examples Of Transitional Leadership

Below are a few examples of it:

Company restructuring

It occurs when some major restructuring takes place at a company. Usually, companies bring in an executive-level leader to handle such restructuring. These leaders approach challenges with a fresh perspective and their lack of knowledge and any sort of personal connection with the existing company practices and employees enable them to carry out the restructuring in a fair and professional manner.

Example: A company may bring in an expert executive-level consultant to lead the restructuring in their sales team with the aim of better role clarity and improved ownership of individual and team sales targets.

Related: 9 Change Management Skills (And How To Highlight Them)

Company sale

It plays a very important role during the sale of a company. Companies may bring in an expert to handle such a sale for them. When the news of a company's sale comes out, the existing employees may have a lot of confusion about whether their jobs are going to get affected. The existing leadership may also have some confusion about various aspects of their futures. During such times, a transitional leader helps the companies manage all their employees. Such experts also help companies get the most suitable deals for their owners and shareholders.

Example: A company may hire an expert to handle its sale to one of its competitors. Such an expert works to get the greatest deal for the owners and to manage all the logistical and legal aspects of the sale.

Acquisition or merger

During an acquisition or a merger, there may be a lot of uncertainties with new employees coming in via acquisition or the cultural synergies between the two companies during a merger. Companies often bring in experts to handle such uncertainties. Such experts, by not being associated with any of the two merging companies, can handle these situations fairly. Having third-party experts handle such scenarios also helps companies avoid the perception of wrongdoing in the eyes of their employees.

Example: A company may appoint a Chief Integration Officer (CIO) to manage the integration of a new company they have recently acquired into theirs. The CIO works to make sure that the incoming employees from the company being acquired are easily able to understand the culture of the parent company and have a seamless transition into their new roles and teams.

Startup of a new division

Starting a new division is a major transformational project for any organisation. The organisation may have the required expertise to build and launch this new division or they may need outside help to achieve the appropriate results. It is in these scenarios that organisations bring in transitional style of leadership experts to help them handle and manage the launch of such new divisions.

Example: An automobile company may decide to start a new division for manufacturing some of the major spare parts for their automobiles and may hire a board-level expert to manage the launch and operations of this new division.

Related: 7 Leadership Theories For Career Growth

Characteristics Of Transitional Leaders

Here are a few important characteristics of transitional leaders:


Transitional leaders depend a lot on their curiosity to find innovative solutions to even the most complicated problems. This leadership involves working on challenging corporate challenges and develop unique solutions to a wide variety of issues that other employees may present to you. In such situations, being curious serves you well to be able to learn from others and implement these learnings in solving the problem.


A broad organisation-level vision drives transitional leaders. Such leaders are responsible for bringing about major transformations for organisations and their vision on how to achieve the result is what drives them and their teams. Their vision helps them see the bigger picture and handle the small obstructions or hindrances that come in their way to achieving that vision.


Communication is a very important characteristic of effective transitional style leadership. Such leadership involves interacting and communicating with stakeholders at various corporate levels. You may be required to interact with new team members regularly or sit in board meetings at very short notice. Such scenarios require that you possess excellent communications skills to effectively explain your point and to also understand the viewpoints of others.

Related: What Is The Importance Of Leadership In The Workplace?

Pros Of Transitional Leadership

Below are a few pros of it:

A clear focus on the task at hand

When companies appoint experts or consultants in transitional style leadership capacities, they do so with a clear focus on the major challenge that they may be facing. These challenges may range from company restructuring to an acquisition or to starting a new division. With such leadership, companies are able to provide complete focus to the problem, as these leaders work only on these specific projects and do not get involved in the regular company operations.

Little to no disruption to regular organisational operations

With such leadership, the regular operations of an organisation have very little or no disruptions at all. This is because organisations hire such leaders specifically to handle any projects or challenges that the organisation may be facing, which fall outside the scope of regular company operations. So these leaders handle such challenges that may affect the regular operations of the company and the organisation keeps working smoothly.

Related: Leadership Development: Definition, Process And Styles

Cons Of Transitional Leadership

Below are a few cons of it:

A drastic change in leadership style

It brings in new leaders to take up major corporate challenges and handle major transformations. These leaders may come in with their own leadership styles and when the existing employees of a company work with these leaders, they may find their leadership styles drastically different from the ones they have been working under. This may cause issues, as these employees may be required to jump back and forth between working with people with completely different leadership styles.

Loss of focus on long-term organisational goals

It is meant to focus on major transformational goals of organisations so that the long-term goals of these companies still remain successful. But what may happen at times is that the transformational goals get more priority than the regular operations of the company and as a result, the company loses track of its long-term goals. This may especially happen when the transformation being carried out is some kind of launch or start-up of a new division.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles

Tips For Developing Transitional Leadership Skills

Here are a few tips you may follow to develop such leadership skills:

Communicate effectively

To develop your transitional style leadership skills, it is very important that you are able to communicate effectively with stakeholders at all corporate levels. This kind of leadership is all about being able to come in and effectively manage new teams and stakeholders. You may be managing an acquisition where you handle the concerns of the incoming employees or you may be handling a company sale where you negotiate with multiple stakeholders. All these scenarios require you to be an effective communicator.

Related: A Guide To 10 Effective Management Styles (With Examples)

Keep things simple

Simplicity is an important trait of transitional style leadership. When you work on major transformational goals, you may find the challenges to be complicated and hence your solutions may also end up being complicated. This often results in projects getting delayed and a lot of confusion during the implementation. If you keep things simple and try to break down complicated problems into smaller and simpler problems, you may be able to design simple solutions which are easy to explain to your team and hence easy to implement.

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