Is Laissez-Faire Leadership Effective? See What You Don’t Know

In recent years, the concept of “Laissez-Faire Leadership” has been met with a great deal of skepticism. Many leaders in many industries are questioning the suitability of this method as it fails to address several important issues.

Laissez Faire leadership is a style of leadership that operates on the assumption that if workers are given unparalleled levels of trust and autonomy from their leaders, they will rise to the challenge and produce remarkable results. However, those who prefer structure may find this style challenging.

But is Laissez-Faire leadership really effective?

In this article, I will highlight and explain the advantages and disadvantages of the laissez-faire leadership style. After reading through, you should be able to conclude if you think this style of leadership is effective or not.

Overview: What is Laissez-Faire Leadership?

Laissez-Faire translates from French to mean “allow to do”. Leaders with a laissez-faire style generally have a hands-off approach and provide little or no guidance to their team. As a result, creative individuals often thrive in a laissez-faire environment.

For more than half a century, it’s been axiomatic that most employees accept the expectations imposed upon them by their leaders and managers. And, as a corollary, most employees seek clear and consistent expectations from those in positions of leadership.

In recent years, however, this passive acceptance of authority has come under increasing challenge. Critics argue that people are not inherently followers, but can be motivated to take responsibility for their own actions and to accept greater accountability for the attainment of the group’s goals.

This is Laissez-Faire Leadership, a leadership philosophy based on the idea that employees will do what they should do if they have been given the opportunity and guidance to do so. Leaders using this style can be successful if employees are highly experienced and motivated to achieve objectives with minimal oversight.

SEE: Distinct Qualities Of A Great Leader

What Are The Benefits of Laissez-Faire Leadership?

1. Increase autonomy

One of the reasons team members may not be motivated at work is because they don’t have any autonomy. By giving employees more freedom, both in their work life and personal life, you can improve employee satisfaction and productivity.

2. Encourage risk-taking

When you stop micromanaging your team, they can feel comfortable taking more risks and experimenting with new ideas. They’re able to put their creativity to use without worrying about following a list of rules or guidelines.

3. Encourages Participation

Members of a group may be able to come up with better ideas than their leader. The leader can encourage participation by allowing members to discuss topics freely and openly without fear of being reprimanded.

This level of freedom may enable individuals to speak their minds more readily. A good leader will be open to other ideas and use them whenever possible so that he doesn’t suppress creativity or discourage his employees from participating in the future.

4. Freedom Makes People Happy

Laissez-faire leadership allows employees the freedom to perform tasks when they want, as long as they meet deadlines. This type of freedom makes people happy because they don’t have to ask permission for every action they take at work.

They feel like they are in charge of their work environment — even if someone else is technically in charge. While some leaders worry about a lack of control, an employee is less likely to abuse his power if he is happy with his position in the company.

SEE: Wellness Programs for Employees To Be More Efficient At Work

5. Decrease employee turnover

Because laissez-faire leaders allow their subordinates to make decisions and have independence in the workplace, they may help reduce employee turnover.

If you give your employees the freedom and flexibility they desire along with the necessary tools and resources they need to succeed, they won’t look for opportunities with another organization.

SEE: Best Way To Hire New Employees

6. Encourages personal growth

When employees are allowed to lead themselves, they learn to make decisions on their own. As they become more comfortable with decision-making, their confidence grows. Eventually, these employees may develop into self-leaders who do not need a leader present to motivate them or help them complete their tasks.

SEE: Why Interpersonal Skills are Important for You

7. Greater flexibility in the workplace

Employees who know how to do their jobs well will have more flexibility when it comes to choosing when and where they complete their work. For example, if an employee knows how to balance a spreadsheet quickly and efficiently, he might not need direct supervision while completing this task. Instead, he could work from home or complete his task during his lunch break.

What Are the Disadvantages of Laissez-Faire Leadership?

1. Missing out on important information

When employees are managing their own affairs with little input, there’s always a chance that something will go wrong. In some cases, the boss won’t even know about the problem until it’s too late.

This can be particularly problematic when you’re working with an underqualified or irresponsible employee; if they don’t want to share information with you, they don’t have to.

3. No form of accountability

Laissez-faire leaders need to rely on trust or at least hope that employees will handle their responsibilities. However, this isn’t always enough.

If something goes wrong and you find out after the fact, what can you do? You might not have any recourse except to fire someone who failed in a job they weren’t trained for and didn’t oversee personally.

3. Poor involvement with the group

An additional disadvantage of laissez-faire leadership is that the lack of involvement may cause group members to become demoralized.

This type of leadership doesn’t provide guidance or support, which can make group members feel unsure of themselves and reluctant to work hard on projects. As a result, they may feel discouraged by their lack of progress and experience low morale in the workplace.

4. Lack of role clarity

Lack of role clarity is another potential problem with laissez-faire leadership. Employees may not know what tasks to perform or how their job fits into the overall goals of the organization without clear instructions from management or a superior leader who provides direction.

If a laissez-faire leader is not present to guide employees or keep them in check, employees may become confused about their roles. This confusion can lead to decreased productivity and even the potential for conflict.

5. Conflict amongst team members is common

If you decide to adopt laissez-faire leadership, then you need to be aware that conflict amongst team members is common. This can be a huge problem when compared with other management styles because the leader won’t be involved in resolving arguments or disputes between employees.

In addition, it can cause resentment and bitterness within your company, which can ultimately lead to low morale and poor productivity levels.

6. Can result in low productivity

Employees may not be motivated and productive if they are given no direction or supervision from leaders. Laissez-faire leaders typically don’t hold regular meetings with employees to provide guidance on how to complete their work more efficiently.

If one or two people aren’t pulling their weight, then you may want to consider another type of leadership approach.

SEE: A Pivotal Tool For Increasing Organizational Productivity

What Are the Core Characteristics of a Laissez-Faire Leadership?

  • Little guidance from leaders
  • Employees have the ability to make decisions
  • Maximize the leadership qualities of staff
  • Praise accomplishments and reward successes
  • Offer constructive criticism when necessary
  • Allow staff to solve problems and manage challenges
  • Access to many resources and tools
  • Constructive criticism from leaders
  • Hands-off approach
  • Leaders provide all training and support
  • Decisions are left to employees

Laissez-Faire Leadership vs. Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leaders are often thought of as the opposite of laissez-faire leaders. Like laissez-faire leaders, autocratic leaders do not seek input from their employees. However, unlike laissez-faire leaders, autocratic leaders have complete control over their employees’ work and decision-making.

They will often dictate to employees what decisions to make and how to do their jobs. This can be beneficial for a business that needs quick decision-making when time is of the essence, but it can also lead to employee unhappiness.

On the other hand, Laissez-faire leadership is most appropriate in situations where there is little risk or safety involved. The group leader should also have complete trust in the abilities of group members to make the right decisions.

In conclusion, in a company or organization where you have a mixture of these two styles of leadership, you can expect a productive and focused workforce, excellent collaboration, employee satisfaction, great flexibility at the workplace, and an increased bottom-line.

SEE: If Autocratic Leadership Is Good or Bad

Some other styles of leadership

  • Democratic leadership is the third type of leadership style. Democratic leaders ask for employee input when making decisions and then consider that input before making a final decision. This type of leader may assign tasks and make decisions, but they also listen to their workforce when deciding on particular courses of action.
  • Transformational leadership is another common leadership style. Transformational leaders are the type of leaders who encourage growth in others. They motivate those around them and inspire them to work together toward a common goal.
  • The participative leadership style involves team members in the decision-making process. Leaders encourage the participation of team members in decision-making. In doing so, they empower their workforce and give them a sense of ownership for the project at hand.

SEE: All You Need To Know About Participative Leadership

How To Become A Better Laissez-Faire Leader

1. Make decisions – don’t be afraid in making them

Employees want leaders who make decisions and follow through on them. They want to trust them. I have always believed that people would rather have someone give them direction than no direction at all. Of course, if you lack relevant knowledge or experience, it’s acceptable to ask for assistance from others in your organization.

2. Stay out of the way – let others do their job

One important tip is to stay out of the way. This might include letting team members decide the best course of action to reach a goal.

For example, if the goal is to develop a new product, managers typically set timelines and deadlines for their teams. Under laissez-faire leadership, you let your staff figure out how much time they’ll need to get it done.

3. Delegate

Delegation is a two-way street. It requires both a willingness to delegate and a willingness to accept responsibility. Consider what skills your team should develop in order to take on more responsibility and encourage them to reach those goals.

People are generally happy when they are able to do their best work and feel like they are being challenged and growing.

4. Encourage accountability

It’s difficult to foster employee accountability when employees are responsible for their own productivity. It’s how they develop their time management skills and overcome any obstacles holding them back from success.

As a Laissez-Faire leader, your primary role is to provide support and guidance to your team. Encouraging accountability will allow you to help your team develop while remaining hands-off.

SEE: Unique and Creative Ways To Reward Your Employees

5. Make yourself available

While being a laissez-faire leader means being very hands-off and allowing employees to take the reins, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be available. Ensure you’re always available for questions and advice when needed. You don’t want to shirk all of your leadership responsibilities and become an absentee manager.

Laissez-Faire Leadership: FAQs

What is an example of laissez-faire?

A good example of laissez-faire leadership would be an owner who watches without getting involved or a manager who only steps in when necessary.

When is the best time to use laissez-faire leadership?

Generally speaking, this style is best suited for supervisors or managers who oversee teams of highly skilled professionals. There will often be team members who are more skilled than you are or who are skilled in a field you have no experience with.

Laissez-Faire Leadership: Conclusion

Here’s a closing thought I want to leave you with. The true value of any leadership style is in its ability to be tailored to the needs and purposes of the organization which it serves.

What’s more, you’ll probably have to alter your style depending on the company, just like other leaders do. Ultimately, “laissez-faire leadership” can mean different things to different people. Experiment with how it fits your style, but above all, use what has worked for you in the past to guide you now. Confidence usually pays off.

Good luck, have fun – and don’t forget to have some balance in your life. And before you leave, I encourage you to read about the unique qualities of a good manager that guarantee success.

I hope you found this article helpful. Thanks for reading.