Expressive Leaders: Definition and How To Become One

An expressive leader believes that the morale of the work group and the emotional health of its members have a major impact on group success. Consequently, supporting workers emotionally is a focal point of the expressive leader. This support includes coaching employees proactively to help them improve their performances and taking the time to ask about their concerns. Additionally, expressive leaders plan and lead group activities that promote harmony and cohesion. The belief is that employees will commit to the work group if the leader shows genuine concern for them as people.

The book “The Work of Leaders” used the phrase “expressive leader” to describe a manager who is genuine and open with employees. The term “expressive” means that the leader interacts openly with staff rather than creating a clear line between managers and employees in the organization or work group. To build group harmony, the leader must often get involved directly in the activities of the team.

Instrumental leaders tend to take a very goal-oriented approach. They feel most comfortable with predetermined objectives and deadlines. Much of their leadership centers on ensuring the work group meets its goals by the prescribed deadline. The instrumental leader emphasizes functional production over emotional support and harmony. Communication is mainly used to provide direction to employees and to receive input on their work progress. Team roles are assigned based on employee capabilities rather than morale and emotional comfort.

A major element of the leader-worker relationship is performance updates. An effective instrumental leader monitors the progress of workers on a regular basis. These leaders tend to view employees as “instruments” to achieving organizational or work group goals, according to the Connective Leadership Institute. There is always the risk that employees dont feel like they have a human connection with managers who take an instrumental leadership approach. However, savvy instrumental leaders recognize the importance of building personal rapport with workers.

An expressive leader is a manager who focuses on building relationships between all team members, including themselves and their employees. Expressive leaders work to build friendships and strong relationships with employees to ensure all team members feel supported, motivated and appreciated.

Naturally Expressive Leaders

Expressive vs instrumental leadership

Instrumental leaders hold a goal-oriented mindset that drives them to establish deadlines and strongly encourage employees to meet them. Instrumental leadership typically emphasizes the importance of productivity and efficiency, rather than communication or team-building. Many managers practice an instrumental leadership style if theyre required to deliver numerous projects regularly within strict deadlines.

Instrumental leaders usually care about the functional production of tasks, rather than providing and encouraging emotional support throughout their team. They typically only use communication to assign deadlines and provide brief input on employees work performances.

Expressive leaders instead use communication as the main tool to encourage employees to push themselves, establish and meet their career goals and offer emotional support if they feel discouraged or confused. Most expressive leaders care more about employees feeling supported and confident to effectively complete their tasks, rather than enforcing strict deadlines.

What is an expressive leader?

An expressive leader is a manager who focuses on building relationships between all team members, including themselves and their employees. Expressive leaders work to build friendships and strong relationships with employees to ensure all team members feel supported, motivated and appreciated. This allows the team to remain collaborative, productive and efficient as they contribute valuable work to the organization.

Many expressive leaders believe in maintaining open communication with employees by regularly holding one-on-one performance review sessions, providing resources when needed for certain projects and assisting employees on complex work items or problems.

Expressive leaders also instruct team-building sessions to help employees grow, develop and improve as a group. All employees working on a team with an expressive leader in charge typically feel comfortable asking both their manager or other members for guidance and support on projects.

Traits of expressive leaders

In addition to basic leadership abilities, expressive leaders must offer positive and motivating traits to drive their employees to succeed and grow as a team. Common traits expressive leaders typically hold include:


Many expressive leaders emphasize the importance of building relationships among team members and managers. Theyll analyze their team to determine how they interact with one another to find ways for employees to relate to each other, improve internal communications and build an encouraging environment among team members.

Open to change

There may be moments where a leader sets a deadline and the employee has a hard time understanding or completing the project. Rather than enforcing the deadline anyway, an expressive leader may be open to changing the deadline and extending it until the employee gains a full understanding of the assignment and has all the resources needed to deliver a quality project.


Most expressive leaders encourage team members to work closely with one another, especially on group projects. This makes employees feel more comfortable asking each other for help when theyre stuck on an assignment or behind on a task.


Since expressive leaders have strong relationships with employees, they typically work closely with them to develop career goals and build strategies on how to reach them. They also help develop employees skills further by assigning them challenging tasks to complete or difficult problems to solve, while also offering guidance and support, when needed.


Expressive leaders regularly communicate with employees and encourage them to ask for help when needed. Theyll conduct ongoing one-on-ones with employees to discuss their progress and improvements to make on certain assignments or elements of their role. This helps employees grow and improve in their careers.


Most expressive leaders strongly value teamwork and may conduct team-building exercises regularly. They may also hold group meetings where theyll encourage team members to brainstorm ideas and provide each other with valuable feedback.

How to become an expressive leader

To be an expressive leader, you should use your strengths to listen to employees needs, resolve any team issues and encourage collaboration between members. Follow these steps to become a great expressive leader:

1. Understand your strengths as a leader

Before you can begin mentoring and motivating team members, you should evaluate your own strengths as a leader. If youre great at motivating team members, use these to encourage employees to improve their job performance and build their skill sets.

You may also have strong organizational and time-management skills which you can use to build goals for employees according to their skills and career interests. Once you clearly understand your skills as a leader, you can use them to bring out successful results from your team.

2. Listen to and address employees needs

Meet with employees individually to discuss their career goals. Ask them what support or advice you can provide to help them meet these goals or better perform in their role. Once you understand your employees needs, you can find resources or offer guidance to help them improve and perform to their best abilities.

Showing that you care about their needs also increases their satisfaction in their role and makes them want to contribute more valuable work to you. This also makes employees feel more confident asking for help, which gives them enough information and resources to deliver high-quality, well-made work assignments.

3. Encourage collaboration

A key to strong expressive leadership is building a collaborative environment among all employees. Tell team members why its important for them to help each other with complex projects. This makes employees feel more comfortable with each other and leads to quality assignments.

Have employees encourage each other in other instances as well, like meetings. Instruct employees to remain respectful when others speak and make sure all employees feel heard and appreciated for their ideas or contributions.

4. Hold one-on-one meetings

Conduct one-on-one sessions with employees to discuss their work performances and any needs they have to better perform in their roles. Having regular one-on-one meetings makes employees feel listened to and provides them with a comfortable environment to express their thoughts and concerns.

Provide valuable feedback on their work performance. For instance, if you notice an element of their role that they need to work on, be specific and consider outlining steps for them to take to improve. In addition to giving them feedback on their performance, ask for input on your own as well. This tells employees youre committed to improving yourself and to offering them a better workplace experience.


What is an example of an expressive leader?

In contrast, expressive leaders are more concerned with promoting emotional strength and health, and ensuring that people feel supported. Social and religious leaders—rabbis, priests, imams, directors of youth homes and social service programs—are often perceived as expressive leaders.

What are the 4 types of leader?

In summary, leaders of groups can be divided into two different types: instrumental and expressive. Leaders who are dominantly instrumental focus on achieving goals and completing tasks, while leaders who are dominantly expressive focus on maintaining group cohesion and ensuring the collective well-being of the group.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *