What is Laissez Faire Leadership?

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As a laissez-faire leader, you manage your team hands-off. You don’t micromanage your workers. You also won’t guide too much, and there won’t be too many instructions to give either. You’ll allow for creativity, experience, and resources availed to your workers to help them achieve an expected end.

You’ll be confident that left alone, your team has the capacity to deliver with expected measures of productivity. The subordinates become the main decision-makers and leaders.

Understanding laissez-faire leadership

To understand laissez-faire leadership, we need to explore the framework in which the model operates.

By definition, laissez-faire is the removal of micro-supervision over a doer of an activity. It is a philosophical view that focuses on the ability of any individual to pursue their dreams uninterrupted.

How can you develop laissez-faire traits?

Numerous common traits exist in the implementation of the laissez-faire leadership style. Some of these are:

1.    Allowing key decision-making processes to be in the employees’ hands.


The foundation of the rational decision-making model for managers is the organization’s economic theory. Decision-making models include non-irrational models like- i. the satisficing model, ii. the garbage can model, and iii. the incremental model.

i.              The satisficing model. As a manager, you’ll at times experience bounded rationality in the decision-making process. Time constraints and cognitive capacity will limit you. For you to be an effective decision-maker in your laissez-faire environment, you must have adequate information, build capacity to handle huge chunks of unrefined information, and consider all costs.


ii.             The incremental model. At times, your decisions will primarily be short-term solution-based. You’ll aim to reduce challenges and problems faced to the tolerability level.  The aim is to accumulate proper short time decisions that’ll accumulate to create the bigger picture progressively.


iii.            The garbage can model. As a team leader, you’ll at times adopt random behavior whenever faced with non-programmed decisions to make. Decisions are by chance. The reason is the non-specificity and non-clarity of goals due to high participant turnover.



2.    Offer little guidance.

To effectively guide your employees- especially during abrupt changes in a laissez-faire environment, you’ll need to sell a desirable vision. It must be super compelling to keep the laissez-faire employees with laser focus. It should be realistic, coherent, flexible, and super easy to communicate and drive through.


Other main tips include:


Offering constructive criticism, taking charge only if need be, availing of all tools and resources needed, letting followers own and solve their own problems.

What is an example of laissez-faire?

a.    Warren Buffet

Warren Buffet surrounds himself with loyal and trustable people. He uses laisser-faire to lead. He ensures people are effective in their roles, and empowers them to work alone- unless he’s really needed. He is well known for the “I can see in you” type of attitude where people can be let to try out innovative ideas, make mistakes, and learn. Such an environment hugely benefits many in their skill development, ultimately resulting in greater achievements.

b.    Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs had the clarity of ideas and vision. He could sell that to his team and leave everyone figuring out how to achieve that. Team members are reported to have tried new approaches and solve complex challenges while working for Steve Jobs. 

c.    Queen Victoria

The Age of Individualism is identified with Queen Victoria. It was the Victorian Era. The chief leadership style in that period in England was for everyone to apply their own talents and creativity to build a strong, prominent economy.

d.    Herbert Hoover

US 31st president Herbert Hoover applied a laissez-faire political approach. He trusted his teams, trusted their skills and experiences, and became extremely successful in his leadership approach.

Why is laissez faire leadership good?


 Numerous advantages for managers and employees exist in laissez-faire leadership. They include:

a.    Accountability

Subordinates are more accountable for their own work and decisions they make in laissez-faire leadership. They are accountable for doing the best they could. They know they’ll be questioned in case of laxity or carelessness, leading to giving the best possible input.

b.    Higher retention

Laissez-faire led organizations do have a high retention of subordinates. Workers know that you trust them. They respect your confidence in them and will stick around because you’ve created an environment where they feel relied on. They relax faster and more easily.

c.    Creativity

You’ll automatically create an environment of creative innovates if you exercise laissez-faire in your leadership. You’ll be allowing your workers to try out new approaches to doing things. Your permission allows them to try new ideas authoritatively. They become super creative as you aren’t micromanaging them. Their motivation stems from thoughts and ideas they are executing and not in specific preset expectations, targets, or instructions. They understand that their autonomy on their part of the project is important as a crucial part. They thus are excited about proving what they can do. 

d.    Relaxed company culture

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Relaxed company culture is a product of the creation of a relaxed environment for workers. Laissesz-faire leadership offers subordinates the freedom of expression in their assigned projects and roles. No one constantly keeps interrupting to find out if work is being done in a previously expected fixed methodology. This helps employees enjoy their jobs, interact, and be relaxed as they work.

What are the disadvantages of the laissez-faire leadership style?

Drawbacks of the laissez-faire style of leadership do exist. They include:

a.    Newcomer’s discouragement

New workers in the workforce could easily struggle and be discouraged in a laissez-faire environment. They often need guidance, training, and mentorship, to a greater extent than laissez-faire could allow.

b.    Lacking support

Structure and support could lack in laissez-faire leadership. It is very common to lack subordinate support structures. Often, there’s no one to consult as there are no set strategies, group organization, check-in meetings, etc. To navigate such an environment that has no real support is hard.

c. Confusion about overall leadership

Overall leadership could lack in a laissez-faire environment where every worker is on their own. More dominant personality workers emerge and try to take control, throwing everyone into confusion, miscommunication, and problems. 

d. Groupwork challenges

Groupwork is almost unheard of in a laissez-faire environment. Individuals are lone workers. The idea of group work is alien to most. They are thus uncomfortable in the very crucial area of pooling ideas, creating the warmth of unity, and getting to assist each other solve complexities.

Does laissez faire still exist?

Over strict implementation and adherence to laissez-faire principles of leadership no longer apply. To implement laissez-faire leadership in your business, these five tips apply:

1.   Incentivize

To keep workers highly motivated to perform, incentivize them, and offer generous bonuses. Be sure to apply firm action whenever necessary. While not micromanaged, positive performance in workers could emanate from incentives.

2.    Observe performance

Connect with workers by being observant of their performance from far. Let your employees understand that it’s in your interest to see everyone performing.

3.    Delegate

Ensure to eliminate structural confusion by giving specific tasks and timeframes to specific people. Do not let dominating employees take advantage of others.

4.    Address problems

Problems must not slide by. Be proactive to help solve them.

5.    Be available

Ensure every worker knows that they could approach you easily if there arises any need.

Final Thoughts

Laissez-faire is a “let go” style of leadership. You allow your followers to fully take over every matter concerning their specific tasks.

While the style works well to allow new ideas and creativity to reign in an organization, it has the main disadvantage of lack of control in the case of collective decisions and group work.

Availing generous incentives and being available to help followers solve any of their problems is key to keeping their motivation. Employee retention is high if laissez-faire is applied in an organization that considers rewarding performance.

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