There are different types of leaders in every organization. Some might be dominating, while others may be lenient and adopt a laid-back approach. While each leadership type has its pros and cons, it is necessary to understand them to find a leadership style that suits a particular organization.
A bureaucratic or autocratic leader imposes strict rules on the employees and wants them to produce the desired results at all costs. However, the leader who provides all the resources that the team members need and allows them to make decisions as per their will is the one following the Laissez-Faire leadership style.
What is Laissez Faire Leadership?
This leadership style is marked by a lack of micromanagement. It means that the leaders will just provide employees with the necessary resources and allow them to work at their own pace. They may still inform employees about deadlines and monitor their progress closely.
This kind of leadership usually works in a creative space like digital marketing and advertising when the executives have to think creatively about a specific ad or marketing campaign. Interfering their work would disturb their creative thinking and process. Therefore, the leader would want them to have their creative space.
Advantages of Laissez-Faire Leadership
Trusting Team Members
In Laissez-Faire leadership, one must show complete trust in the team members. It makes them more confident, and they work with more passion and dedication. Sometimes, too much freedom may backfire, but overall, it helps improve productivity and overall quality of work.
Delegating Work Smartly
Leaders adopting the Laissez-Faire leadership style should learn how to delegate tasks effectively. They must entrust their team members with diverse roles and responsibilities to encourage them to take up different tasks quickly and efficiently.
This type of leadership teaches them how to recognize raw talent and helps them to develop their skills. They would learn how to identify the team members suitable for rendering particular roles and duties.
Understand the Time to Intervene or Give Space
Laissez-Faire leadership means a laid-back way of leading a team. However, that doesn’t mean that these leaders don’t intervene when necessary.
They may appoint team members who can report to them when things are not running as efficiently as they should be. Or they will keep an eye on the teams’ progress to know when they need help, even if the team is not able to communicate it.
The leaders also must know when to step back after giving the necessary guidance and feedback. They must provide space and opportunities to the team members and recognize the perfect way they can collaborate and perform without burdening each other.
Therefore, they need to chalk out a particular process before giving them the freedom to work as per their instincts.
Focusing on the Bigger Picture
The managers who practice Laissez-Faire leadership put faith and trust in their team. Instead of focusing on the day-to-day activities, they visualize a larger goal for their team and work accordingly.
This approach might increase the confidence of the employees- something that is particularly necessary for large organizations to thrive. They must also identify the situations in which this leadership style will work for their team.
For instance, if the leaders want to deliver a project within a week, they may refrain from adopting the Laissez-Faire leadership style. It is because they might have to intervene in the process regularly to check the progress and motivate the team members.
This leadership style is great for teams that aren’t into numbers but aim toward improving the overall design, quality, or features of products or services.
As a result, adopting this leadership strategy for a team involved in rigorous production activities might not be suitable. However, it may suit the teams responsible for product development, design, and innovation.
Recognition and Rewards
If the leaders adopt a Laissez-Faire leadership style in their organization, they must also learn how to recognize and reward deserving employees.
While recognition will motivate hard-working employees to give their 100%, an incentive program will encourage others to improve their productivity and quality of work. It is observed that the Laissez-Faire leadership style has worked wonderfully for those organizations that implement an incentive program for both quality and quantity.
Therefore, leaders need to understand how to create an incentive program and how to recognize their talented employees. They must design recognition programs based on data.
For example, the attendance and login and logout times of the employees can be utilized to identify the most punctual employees. To evaluate performance, they can take the inputs from the supervisors or immediate managers.
At the same time, passively monitoring the team’s progress is also essential to reward the employees without bias. Managers can be biased and favor certain employees over others.
Disadvantages of Laissez-Faire Leadership
Lagging in Terms of Productivity
Leaders practicing Laissez-Faire leadership usually favor quality over quantity. It is because this leadership style is generally implemented in teams that are expected to deliver quality work without focusing on tight deadlines.
However, it may also impact their team’s productivity in the long run as team members would overthink and spend unnecessary time fine-tuning the products, thus delaying delivery inordinately.
For example, a team that is into designing t-shirts may produce only five designs a month if it focuses only on quality. However, that might not be considered a good number by the management, who are worried about their t-shirts not changing quickly with the times.
Dealing with Conflicts
Conflicts are an integral part of every organization. However, when the conflicts tend to increase, it hampers work culture and productivity.
Undue freedom can be perceived as a leader’s weakness, and the team members might indulge in unnecessary fights and arguments. They might also violate the organization’s code of conduct and other rules. All this will affect a company’s morale and overall reputation, which can be detrimental to its development and growth.
Confusion About Duties
While applying Laissez-Faire leadership in a company, the leaders must ensure that each team member knows their duties and responsibilities. If there is any ambiguity regarding tasks, it could result in chaos.
To avoid this, they can create a chart where the duties and roles of each team member are specified. However, creating such charts may not be feasible in a large company.
So, the leaders must identify individuals who can keep track of the duties of each team member. After identifying such individuals, they must promote them to leadership positions and assign them the role of running teams without getting bossy.
In short, Laissez-Faire leadership is all about creating leaders who do their job of handling a team strongly but silently. They should also be capable of identifying future leaders.
How to Apply Laissez-Faire Leadership?
Before learning how to apply Laissez-Faire leadership, the leaders must evaluate its pros and cons and analyze the Laissez-Faire examples thoroughly. Here are a few ways through which they can use this type of leadership in their organization:
Building a Strong Team
The leaders need to build a team strong enough to handle all the tasks and projects efficiently. Their focus must be on providing extensive training programs to the employees before they hit the floor.
While Laissez-Faire leadership allows the leaders to take a backseat, it doesn’t mean they ignore processes altogether. They must be able to observe things closely without actually disturbing the process or team members.
Addressing Issues and Resolving Them
This leadership also creates the need to address issues quickly and resolve them in real time.
For example, during the lockdown, most organizations adopted a Laissez-Faire leadership where the leaders took a backseat and allowed the employees to take the lead. Everything, from completing the projects and understanding client requirements, was left to the employees.
Some organizations managed to thrive and succeed with such a setup. But others that failed to address and resolve problems succumbed to the crisis.
Therefore, to successfully apply Laissez-Faire leadership, the leaders must figure out a process to identify and resolve issues that don’t affect the work or productivity. Encouraging employees to voice their opinions and supporting them 24/7 is one way.
Now that we have covered the pros and cons of this leadership style, it is time to look at some Laissez-Faire examples. While looking at the successful examples of Laissez-Faire leadership, one must also analyze the case studies or models that can be considered failures.
Laissez-Faire leadership is not considered an ideal form of leadership in politics. It is because leaders who don’t intervene in daily events and activities might be topped down eventually by their successors. However, there have been a few instances when this leadership style has actually worked for some individuals.
- Queen Victoria was known to promote a sense of individualism during her regime. Every individual was motivated to use their skills to contribute to the development of Great Britain. It eventually helped her to build a strong nation.
- Steve Jobs is also an excellent example of Laissez-Faire leadership. It is believed that everyone working under Steve Jobs was free to use their creativity and explore new things while working.
- Warren Buffet is another business tycoon who achieved huge success through Laissez-Faire leadership. The essence of his leadership lies in trusting his team members and intervening only when there is no other way. It is believed that Warren Buffet allowed his teams to make mistakes so that they could recognize those mistakes and learn from them.
Laissez-Faire Leadership vs. Democratic Leadership: Which Leadership Style Is the Best?
Democratic leadership means taking every team member’s opinion before making any decision. Therefore, if the total number of votes is against the leader’s decision, they will have to go with what the team decides.
On the other hand, Laissez-Faire leadership means leaving every day-to-day decision to employees. But major decisions are usually taken by the person authorized to make crucial decisions.
A democratic setup usually works in a small team, as taking every employee’s opinion might not be possible in a large company. Unlike Laissez-Faire leadership, the leader participates in every important decision.
Democratic leadership can lead to better employee engagement and creativity. However, it does have some cons as well.
For instance, taking the opinions of every team member for all the decisions can make the process redundant and less valuable. Also, as the decision-making process involves those not skilled or experienced, the chances of making a wrong decision are high.
Laissez-Faire leadership may work for both small and big teams depending on the type of work or project they are associated with. In many instances, it proves to be better than democratic leadership.
The decision-making responsibility can be delegated to a small bunch of experienced and skilled employees. Also, it helps the work culture to stay relaxed, which may result in higher productivity and better usage of available resources.
While both these leadership styles have advantages and limitations, one must understand how to use both effectively to attain their organization’s larger goals.
For instance, the leaders can follow the democratic style while creating new infrastructure or enhancing employee benefits. They must also identify when to lead the team with authority and when to follow Laissez-Faire leadership.
All these things suggest the development of transformational leadership that makes the best use of every form of leadership.
Leaders need not always lead from the front. Laissez-Faire leadership enables leaders to guide their teams without making them conscious of their presence.
Ultimately, the decision of whether this type of leadership should be implemented or not should be left to every individual leader. However, it is always good to experiment with different leadership styles to determine the one that works the best for your team.