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Expressive Leaders Vs. Instrumental Leaders

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Most leaders are expressive or instrumental, though some balance these two style extremes. An expressive leader prioritizes group harmony and emotional stability. An instrumental leader takes a more task-oriented approach in leading workers toward goals.

Expressive Group Harmony

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.

Expressive Communication

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 Goals

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.

Instrumental Feedback

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 don't 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.


Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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