What Is Laissez-Faire Leadership? (Definition And Pros/Cons)
Updated 27 December 2022
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Laissez-faire leadership is a management style that relies on trust between a supervisor and their employees. This leadership style suits those industries where independence and creativity are important for people to deliver desirable results. Such leaders do not micro-manage employees and do not make the job definitively outlined, rather, they let employees use their creativity and resourcefulness to achieve organisational goals. In this article, we define laissez-faire style of leadership, describe the characteristics of this type of leader and their team members, explain the pros and cons of this leadership style and offer tips for laissez-faire leaders.
What Is Laissez-Faire Leadership?
Laissez-faire leadership is a management method in which supervisors assess the unique skills of each employee and assign them the responsibilities accordingly. This leadership style is directly opposite to autocratic leadership. In this leadership style, as long as an employee works towards achieving the goals of the company, they are free to use their ideas and skills to complete their responsibilities and tasks as they deem fit.
Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles
Characteristics Of Laissez-Faire Leadership
This method of leadership has the following characteristics:
Control on an as-needed basis
Although employees mostly have the ability to make their own decisions when completing tasks, it is important for laissez-faire leaders to be ready to step in and take control of the situation as necessary. In this leadership style, the leaders let the employees work in their way, but they can handle the problem when required. The leaders focus on completing the tasks properly and on time and if they think their intervention is required to accomplish this, they take control of the situation.
Related: How To Demonstrate Leadership Skills At Work: A Guide
Freedom of choice for employees
As long as employees efficiently complete tasks, laissez-faire leaders let them do whatever they wish to complete the job. This is an important feature of this type of leadership and work environment because it builds autonomy, self-confidence and productivity. The employees feel trusted since their manager is trusting them to work independently and the leaders focus only on the end goal instead of following specific processes.
Effective delegation of work
Managers using this method are capable of delegating each job or task to the most qualified employee. This is imperative as proper delegation is vital to workplace efficiency. Such leaders delegate tasks to the right employees and then let them work in their way.
Constructive criticism for employees
Even though employees can make their own decisions, may be important for the leaders and managers to be ready to provide constructive criticism as needed. Such criticism helps the employees get better at their jobs. The leaders may also provide criticism from the point of view of helping their employees improve and not to blame them for their mistakes.
Sufficient resources and tools for employees
In this leadership style, the methods used to complete each task are up to each employee. At the same time, it is very important for management to provide each individual with all the tools and resources necessary to complete each task most effectively. This helps employees work as per their ability without having to worry about minor bottlenecks.
Related: Characteristics Of A Charismatic Leader (With Examples)
Common Characteristics Of Laissez-Faire Managed Employees
Here are some of the usual characteristics of those who work well under this management style:
Given the relaxed nature of laissez-faire work environments, seasoned employees are in high demand when using laissez-faire style of leadership. Individuals with proven experience in a self-directed environment can be easier to rely on when assigning responsibilities. Inexperienced employees typically require much more guidance, which is counterintuitive to the laissez-faire style.
Laissez-faire employees tend to be creative thinkers. Unlike those who function better when taking more instruction from others, laissez-faire employees tend to enjoy or even prefer work environments that allow them to think of unique ideas for workplace issues. Such employees usually develop unique and effective solutions for difficult problems.
Hiring employees with a proven track record of achievements in their fields can translate to high performance in your organisation. This type of employee typically exceeds their expectations for success. If you are recruiting employees for a laissez-faire work environment, consider looking for industry leaders.
To be successful under laissez-faire management, it is important for the employees to be highly self-motivated. In a laissez-faire environment, it is important for the employees to be able to set goals and adhere to timelines to effectively complete their duties. Employees who lack self-motivation may not be able to work effectively on their own and may require micromanagement.
Related: Top Qualities Of An Outstanding Leader
Pros Of Laissez-Faire Leadership
Laissez-faire management offers the following benefits:
A suitable environment for creatives
A laissez-faire management system can be ideal if you are creating an environment that fosters creativity. A workplace that values innovative thinking can help foster teamwork. Such an environment may potentially lead to new and compelling products and services.
One of the top benefits of laissez-faire management is that it allows employees to assume responsibility for their successes and their challenges. This makes them more invested in the overall process. The accountability, though, remains with the leader of each team.
Relaxed work environment
Laissez-faire work environments tend to have less structure and rules. As a result, employees are likely to be under less pressure. A low-pressure workplace can often lead to higher job satisfaction and productivity.
Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions And Examples
Cons Of Laissez-Faire Leadership
Here are the various disadvantages of this leadership style:
Leadership confusion among employees
Given that employees have control over their workloads, it can be difficult to pinpoint what roles leaders play. This confusion can lead to power struggles and other issues associated with imbalanced power in the workplace. It is important that leaders address and resolve such issues before they become major concerns.
Difficult for newcomers
One of the biggest challenges of this leadership is that it may not work well for up-and-coming professionals. While it is tempting to use this method with those who show promise early in their careers, some individuals lacking guidance may become overwhelmed and fall short of their goals. So it is important for leaders to carefully analyse if an employee may do well under this leadership style.
Lack of support for employees
The lack of structure can also cause employees to feel unsupported in their roles. This may cause lower morale and increased turnover rates. To foster a successful laissez-faire work environment, it is important the leaders allow their employees to work alone but also let them know that it is appropriate to reach out for support.
Lack of structure in teams or organisations
Although a less-structured environment can have its benefits, a total lack of structure can be challenging. Successful leaders find the proper balance between having a rigid structure and no structure at all to have the optimum chance of being successful. This means having a structure where each employee knows who to go to in case of an issue.
Related: 12 Ways To Build Leadership Strategies At The Workplace
Tips For Laissez-Faire Style Of Leadership
Here are a few ways to develop this leadership in your workplace:
Leaders may offer better incentives to their employees to keep them motivated in the workplace. Typical laissez-faire work environments acknowledge or reward an employee only when they complete a task successfully. To become an outstanding laissez-faire leader, you may create a system with other incentives and rewards for employees where they get acknowledged during each phase of the task, instead of only at the end.
It is important for leaders to take the time to observe the performance of individuals and teams. This is because they are the ones responsible for optimising the deadlines to effectively compete in most markets. Rather than simply allowing employees to report when they finish the work, it is important for the leaders to take the time to observe various aspects of the project and give feedback and guidance to boost efficiency.
Related: Leadership Roles (With Examples And Functions Of Leadership)
Environments In Which Laissez-Faire Leaders Thrive
The following is a list of environments in which this leadership style works most effectively:
Given the extensive steps required to create technological advances, this leadership is suitable for those who wish to create or invent new technological products. For instance, cell phone technology is constantly in high demand. Fostering a laissez-faire work environment in this industry allows employees to be more creative and potentially innovate new cellular products.
Music, film and other entertainment-related industries can be ideal for this leadership style. Given that these industries are highly driven by creativity, working in a low-pressure environment serves to foster productivity. Using this leadership style allows these creatives the opportunity to showcase their creativity to the fullest extent.
Related: A Guide To 10 Effective Management Styles (With Examples)
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