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Posted on February 10, 2020
Updated on October 9, 2020


Transactional Analysis is a social psychology.  Social Psychology has two foci, socialisation and communication.  Berne used the concept of structural ego states and script analysis to consider socialisation.  Communication was dealt with though transactional analysis proper. “As a social psychology, transactional analysis describes internal personal experiences of social living, external observations of social contact, and also the interconnecting processes between persons………Berne provided a perspective on the prime issue for social psychology, which Comte encapsulated in his query: How can the individual be at once cause and consequence of society?” ( Massey, 1996)

The link between relationships and boundaries influences the nature and type of leadership.  The organisational culture then reinforces this.  Massey, (1996), explores the issue of personal processing and the tension between inner experience and outer observation.  How we internalised our past experiences influences both our structural Parent (exteropsyche) ego state, and our Child (archeopsyche), this in turn is likely to affect our Adult (neopsyche) and therefore this effects how we are as a follower and how we are as a leader.  The influences in the Parent ego state include the national culture, our sub-culture, and the organisational culture.

For example, those who did not introject positive parenting, and subsequently have little structuring and positive controlling parent, are likely to either to overboard in attempting to do everything themselves without asking for assistance, or seek others who will give this to them.  Some therefore go into organisations, such as the police force, or the army, in an attempt to locate the good or structuring Parent.  Unfortunately, when the organisation downsizes or reorganises, those with little Parent of their own are then in danger of experiencing the organisation as the bad object.

Cultural differences play a part here.  Research on leadership (Beverly Alimo-Metcalfe, 1995) shows that it is viewed differently in different cultures.  The two top leadership characteristics in the USA are vision and charisma - qualities ranked much lower by UK managers.  UK managers focus more on working in close collaboration with others.  There is an element of humility, and vulnerability, which is almost entirely, absent in the USA.

For many, leadership implies one person making all the decisions.  In most organisations there must be more, as there are too many decisions to be made for one person to manage.  A good leader evokes leadership from the group and has an idea about establishing and maintaining effective and appropriate boundaries.  Boundaries may be internal, external and between people.   Culture, nationality, group membership provide external boundaries, whereas developing a value system and an identity are about internal boundaries.  When we work with other people we co-construct ideas, go along, or not, with any cultural norms etc.

This is what Massey calls the “between”, and this constructs a real or imagined relationship that involves beliefs, comfort levels, and ideas about potential.  The “between” may impose various degrees of social distance or allow for self-disclosing vulnerability and intimacy.

Therefore this idea of “between” with its internal and external perspectives will come into play when we consider leadership.

In considering leadership we might also consider the concept of Projective Identification.  Projective Identification is an internal perspective.  Those involved feel complete as they have projected their unowned experience onto another person and perceive this as being carried or owned by them.  This can lead to controlling leadership with passive followership, such as in autocratic systems.

Van Poelje (1995) discusses the idea that master, followers and lieutenants all have complementary racket systems.  In autocratic systems individuals are unable to deal with their authentic feelings and therefore repress them.  They therefore lack a solid sense of self and have a high need for outside structure and strokes.  Boundaries are impermeable and alternative realities are not permitted.

Whereas, with democratic leadership boundaries are permeable and communication is open allowing development of both the individual and the organisation.

Today more and more organisations are moving to self-managed work teams.  This requires new behavioural norms, which need to be supported by the organisational culture.  In these situations leaders are often viewed more as facilitators and coaches, which may threaten those used to the old systems of leadership.  Those threatened may attempt to create impermeable boundaries as a way of preventing the new structures.  Dependent on their sphere of influence some may be successful in this or at least be able to delay progress.

Once self-managed work teams are in place then individuals and teams will need assistance to deal with problems in relationships as they arise.  Traditionally, managers and team leaders would have addressed situations such as performance problems.  In self-managed work teams, being effective means that they ideally resolve situations as they arise and don’t stamp collect.  Teaching emotionally literacy along with basic TA concepts aids communication in this area.

Power and Leadership


The ability to influence the actions of others, individuals or group (Krausz R. 1986)

The capacity to create change against resistance (and by extension the capacity to resist unwanted change). (Steiner C. 1995)

More money meant more powerful wheels.  My first real money was made as an auto mechanic...Horsepower was what everyone seemed to desire and Detroit delivered it...The early taste of power coming from using machines made a deep impression on me...Unfortunately, most of the world’s power is held by men who would like to think only in the rational and scientific mode. (Steiner C. 1995)

If we are out of touch with a sense of our own internal source of power we may attempt to obtain this through power over rather than power with others.

If we believe we are powerless we are likely to use the status granted to us by the organisation, or give our power away.


“The way power is used in the process of influencing the actions of others”.  (Krausz R. 1986)

“A leader seeks to bring about learning and inspire willing effort from followers.  A leader looks for contributive effort and commitment in order to bring about the changes and visions they hope to reach”. (Williams M. 1998)

“Leaders achieve results by working with and through people and exist at all levels of the organisation”.  Their responsibility is to “align the organisation, to ensure that all its components are pointing in the same direction”.   (Wickens 1995)


A manager seeks to establish and maintain order, structure and predictable certainty within a business or a team in order to achieve deadlines, budgets and performance objectives.

This is a far more practical, tactile role than that of leader.

A manager can regulate “vision” with the practical needs of the team.  They can see problems that might arise. They direct efforts. (Williams M. 1998)

Management is broadly about the formulation of policy, the organisation and co-ordination of work, the allocation of tasks, development of staff and determination of responsibility and ensuring the performance is in line with requirements.

Doing things right rather than doing the right things. (Wickens P. 1995)

Management and Leadership

To be successful managers must both manage and lead.

Leaders must be able to manage, or at least be surrounded by people who can. A manager who cannot lead is a waste of space and money! (Wickens P. 1995)

Power Types

Coercion - based on fear to ensure compliance

Position - based on status

Reward - capacity to assign material or psychological compensations

Support - based on the ability to stimulate the involvement of peers, superiors etc. in organisational endeavours

Knowledge - related to relevant expertise for job.

Interpersonal Competence - based on communication skills, empathy, authenticity, caring, respect, trust and capacity for intimacy.  Primarily involves the informal web of relationships.

Leadership Style

Coercive - this style employs predominantly coercion and position power.  If you win, I lose, so I must win.  People are treated like pawns.  People who are treated like pawns tend to be passive and feel useless.

Controlling - The types of power predominantly used in this case are coercion, position, and reward.

Coercion tends to be subtle, though emotional and material manipulation. Controlling leadership is similar to McGregor’s (1960) X Theory. The climate under this leadership reflects a diminished sense of accountability, competition, mistrust and defensiveness.

Coaching - This style uses predominantly position, reward, knowledge and support power.  It allows individual development and professional growth, although it may also stimulate dependency in relation to hierarchical superiors and more experienced people in the organisation.  Organisational power tends to be underused.  Climate is one of co-operation and openness.

Participative - With this kind of leadership reward, support, acknowledgement and interpersonal competence are the most frequently employed types of power.  Creativity, problem solving, and decision making are enhanced.  The climate reflects trust and respect regardless of the individual’s position in the hierarchy.  There is an overall sense of well being and worth.

Leadership Style, Amount of Energy Used and Results Obtained

Leadership & Imagoes

Newton (2003) has developed imagoes for different training styles.  I have taken some of these and considered the issue of leadership styles with each imago.

Liberal Leadership Imago:

Imparting knowledge is the main object.  Workers are seen as empty vessels needing to be filled.  Risk of I+U-.  Invites passivity and there is an invitation to Be Perfect.

Dogmatic Leadership Imago:

Authority is given to the past and traditional ways of doing things.  In this type of organisation those who adapt will be rewarded but those who resist will possibly be excluded.  Newton also describes this as the “guru” model.  In such organisations there can be a high turnover of staff as personal experience is discounted, or fragmentation in teams as people emotionally withdraw.  This leadership can lead to symbiosis.

Progressive Leadership Imago:

The aim is to enable workers to increase their skills in problem solving and decision making and encourage personal responsibility.  The leader becomes the guide.  There is an emphasis on social as well as personal change.  This links with the classical school of TA and the development of the contractual process.  Newton outlines one of the weaknesses as the belief that all problems are solvable and sometimes the most appropriate response is just the “be there”.


Berne, E (1963), The Structure and Dynamics of Organizations and Group, Evergreen

Beverly Alimo-Metcalfe - 

Freedman L. (1993), Self-Managed Work Teams, TAJ 23:2

Krausz R (1986) Power and Leadership in Organizations - TAJ 16,2 April

Massey R.F. (1996), Transactional Analysis as a Social Psychology , TAJ 26:1

Newton T. (2003) Identifying Educational Philosophy and Practice through Imagoes in Transactional Analysis Training Groups, TAJ 33:4

Van Poelje S. (1995), Development of Autocratic Structures , TAJ 25:3

Wickens P. (1995), The Ascendant Organisation , Macmillan Business

Williams M. (1998), Mastering Leadership, Thorogood