There are many different forms of leadership which are utilized to inspire people toward greater things. Laissez-Faire is just one style and it is more of a laid back approach. It tends to involve more delegation to direct reports and there typically isn’t much guidance given with that delegation. People are free to work as they see fit and have independence, but it also means they will be held responsible for outcomes instead of the leadership.
Is this leadership style effective? Here are the key points to consider when examining the pros and cons of laissez-faire.
Here Are the Pros of Laissez-Faire
1. It encourages the personal development of direct reports with a hands-on approach.
Of course it isn’t the leadership that is being hands-on in laissez-faire, but the direct reports actually doing the work. It’s a “trial by fire” type of system that quickly weeds out those who are not suitable for the tasks that need to be completed. This leaves a team with only the strongest and most adaptable workers, creating a bond that can become a lifetime friendship.
2. Innovation is something that is highly valued.
The goal of laissez-faire isn’t to make life easy for the leadership. It is to encourage innovation and solicit feedback from multiple resources so that the entire team can benefit. Instead of having one person direct traffic and implementing their one singular vision, multiple perspectives can be obtained so that the differences make everyone stronger. Workers are celebrated for coming up with new ways to get work completed and this will naturally boost morale.
3. It allows an experienced team to use their experience.
Although laissez-faire will not be a beneficial leadership style if a team is not experienced or knowledgeable, it is very effective when there is an established team of veterans. By counting on these experiences and letting that wisdom come through, tasks become easier to accomplish because the leadership is getting out of the way to let their team do what they do best.
4. It creates an inviting work environment.
Although there will always be folks who want direct guidance from their management team, most workers crave independence and freedom. Laissez-Faire provides exactly that. As long as the worker can keep performing at a high level within the accepted policies and procedures, this atmosphere can continue on indefinitely. Good people want to work with this type of leader because it allows them to express their individuality.
Here Are the Cons of Laissez-Faire
1. It still requires a certain amount of supervision to be successful.
Although workers are essentially handed the “keys to the kingdom” in this leadership style, they must still be supervised. An unsupervised worker can decide to go rogue and do things that fall outside of what their assignment happens to be or violate policy. This means it isn’t a completely hands-off experience like some managers may believe.
2. Someone has to take the blame.
If something does go wrong, this leadership style creates a vacuum of responsibility. The management will typically place the responsibility on the worker who didn’t get the assigned task completed as requested. The workers tend to blame the management for being too hands-off. If this happens frequently, then it can dramatically affect the morale of the unit and cause a reduced level of productivity.
3. It is difficult to adapt to changing circumstances.
Because workers are completing tasks independently, it can be difficult for a leader practicing laissez-faire to implement changes that must take place immediately. This information has to filter down to each worker, who then must decide on their own if there is value in implementing those changes. Remember – true laissez-faire means that a worker can’t be forced to implement change. The decision on how work is completed is up to them, not the leadership.
4. It creates a higher risk of future litigation.
What happens if a job isn’t completely properly, causing a manager to fire that worker? The chances of litigation happening are increased in laissez-faire because workers have an active defense if they are fired for incompetence. Managers don’t train or provide guidelines in this management style. They simply delegate the work and expect it to get completed.
The pros and cons of laissez-faire show that it is most effectively used when a team is very experienced. All supervisors and managers should use multiple leadership styles, however, and be adaptable to changing environments instead of relying on just one particular style.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.