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Laissez-Faire Leadership Style: Characteristics, Advantages, and Disadvantages

4 min read
Last Updated on 01 February, 2021
Laissez-Faire Leadership Style: Characteristics, Advantages, and Disadvantages

Leaders are the decision-makers in any organization, and every leader follows a type of leadership style depending on their attributes and personality traits. Today, we discuss Laissez-Faire leadership and its hands-off approach, characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages.

While autocratic leadership is considered demeaning and overpowering, laissez-faire leadership is quite the opposite. Here, leaders leave most of the decisions to their employees. This particular leadership style is not accepted widely, but we can’t ignore it as it has its charm and benefits. It helps employees to increase productivity and provide job satisfaction.

We have previously discussed various leadership styles like democratic leadership, charismatic leadership, coaching leadership, etc.

Now, let’s understand what laissez-faire leadership has in store for us!

What is Laissez Faire Leadership?

Derived from the french word 'Laissez Faire' meaning “leave it alone” or “let it be,” stands accurate for the laissez-faire approach of leadership. It is relevant for companies who support independence and creativity with an initiative.

Instead of making definite job responsibilities and micromanaging employees, laissez-faire leadership allows workers to enhance their creativity at work and attain organizational goals.

Also known as “delegative leadership,” laissez-faire assesses the individual talents of each worker, a workplace environment- suitable for employees who have a forward-thinking intelligence and are resourceful. Employees are allowed to complete tasks using their skills as long as they do not hinder the company.

Let’s delve more in-depth as we move on to the:

Characteristics of Laissez Faire Leadership

We can characterize this leadership style in the following ways:

  • Hands-off approach
  • Training and support
  • Trust their employees
  • Employees take decisions
  • Accepting mistakes

Let’s have a look at them in detail:

Hands-off approach

Leaders who follow laissez-faire give their employees every tool they require to solve the problems by themselves. They don’t impose the team towards a one-track direction but allow them to decide their objectives to enhance their problem-solving skills and take the right decision.

Even though the term “laissez-faire” implies an entirely hands-off approach, many leaders are available to the team for feedback and constructive criticisms. They can still be actively involved in the project but allow workers the freedom to make major decisions.

Training and support

Leaders delegate huge responsibilities in the hands of their workers. As a result, they are concerned with the experience and educational qualifications of their employees. To ensure this, many laissez-faire leaders provide adequate support, training, and educational opportunities to their workers to achieve their best and become world-class performers.

Trust their employees

Leaders must feel confident about their workers’ skills, knowledge, and thus this approach to leadership requires a tremendous amount of trust. Laissez-faire leaders have a relaxed approach, but one must not mistake this for lack of care. They are concerned about their employees’ direction, and they show this by hiring the best people.

They ardently hire experts in their fields who will never bring harm or shame to the companies’ reputation. This builds trust, and leaders can rely on their workforce possessing the best talents.

Employees take decisions

Leaders who follow laissez-faire know the importance of hiring the right people because they will work towards decision-making and figure out how they want to work. Leaders unite people to promote team-building opportunities and employee engagement.

Employees do not take decisions alone; they collaborate. Leaders help workers to come together and consult with each other about projects and goals. They instead act as consultants or mentors in times of need.

Accepting mistakes

In a laissez-faire leadership environment, it is acceptable for employees to make mistakes in the innovation process. Workers have the confidence to apply innovation to achieve their goals without receiving a reprimand for mistakes. Emphasis is not on getting everything right but to learn and develop.

It is obvious most people would want to work under such leaders, but laissez-faire has its advantages and disadvantages; let’s have a look at them:

Advantages of Laissez-Faire Leadership

  • Because leaders are hands-off in their approach, employees can be hands-on- embracing personal growth and stay highly motivated.
  • It facilitates learning and development opportunities.
  • Freedom of decision-making encourages innovation amongst employees.
  • It helps in faster decision-making because there is no micromanagement. Employees are autonomous to make decisions and address problems without approval.

Well, to benefit from the advantages, one has to meet a few conditions. For example,- If you have a highly-skilled team who is expert enough to work independently, this approach will work very well. Since leaders who follow the laissez-faire approach- have employees who can work independently and achieve organizational success with minimum guidance.

Disadvantages of Laissez-Faire Leadership

The laissez-faire style majorly depends on its employees’ abilities- it fails to be effective if the team lacks knowledge or has less experience. This can result in poor job performance and decreased job satisfaction.

If your management styles require high efficiency and extreme productivity of the employees, this leadership might not be suitable for you. If employees are not good at meeting deadlines, managing projects, and solving problems without guidance or feedback, this leadership style can go off-track.

Disadvantages of laissez-faire style include:

  • Since the team receives very little guidance, they might get confused about the clarity of the role and job they must perform.
  • Too much independence can lead to isolation and affect team-bonding opportunities. Since the leader is not available all the time, employees tend to show less care and concern toward their projects.
  • Some incompetent leaders take this up as an escape from their low accountability. When goals are not met, leaders can easily blame the team and employees.
  • At worst, laissez-faire shows passivity or avoidance of true leadership. In these cases, leaders fail to motivate, recognize, or appraise the team for their efforts.

Conclusion

Even though the laissez-faire leadership style is not widely accepted, we have seen many successful leaders who followed this style. Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett, for instance- their companies achieved many accolades worldwide by hiring the best people, trusting them, and showing high-level organizational growth by practicing the laissez-faire approach of leadership.

If they can, we can, too! Do let us know what you feel in the comments section below!

This article is written by Gautam Gayan. He works as a Content Marketer at Vantage Circle. Apart from being a passionate content creator for HR services and employee engagement, Gautam is a theatre enthusiast, an avid reader and an asipring poet. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com