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.
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:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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
Like any other leadership style, the infamous laissez-faire leadership has many advantges; let's take a look:
1. Personal Growth and Motivation
Because leaders are hands-off in their approach, employees can be embrace personal growth and stay highly motivated.
2. Learning and Development
It facilitates learning and development opportunities. Because of its hands-off approach employees have the chance to learn on their own. They will gain on-job experience faster.
Freedom of decision-making encourages innovation amongst employees. Employees with great skills and experience would not want to stay in a dominant environment. When they have freedom to work their productivity automatically elevates.
4. Faster Decision-Making
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 employee productivity, 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-building opportunities. Since the leader is not available all the time, employees tend to show less care and concern toward their projects.
3. Low Accountability
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.
Examples of Succesful Universal Projects Using Laissez-Faire Leadership
Many successful world leaders delegated authority and decision-making to their employees. These projects would not be successful without following the laissez-faire leadership style. Here are some examples; let’s have a look:
1. Panama Canal
Panama Canal was an ambitious project led by US President Theodore Roosevelt in 1904. It is an engineering marvel that conquered geographic challenges and accidents. The Panama Canal would not be a success without giving authority to the workers.
2. Transcontinental Railroad
The completion of this railroad sets the perfect example of a laissez-faire leadership as it was not built single-handedly. It comprises presidential directives, deep cooperation, and private entities that helped lay rail track across US territories.
3. Interstate Highway System
US President Dwight D led the construction of this highway system after signifying the importance of transportation and automobiles for the country’s future. A project so magnificent would not have been possible without Eisenhower’s hands-off approach. He gave the engineers, contractors, and other skilled workers the authority and freedom to complete this project.
4. Hoover Dam
The dam was constructed under the guidance of Herbert Hoover, who was the Secretary of Commerce under President Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s. After a decade, the project was completed under the direction of President Franklin D Roosevelt. He was rarely associated with laissez-faire leadership, but without giving the authority and decision-making to the workers, the project would have been a failure.
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- 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!