One of the most laid-back approaches to leading a group is with the laissez-faire style. The laissez-faire leadership style is more “hands-off” than other styles, where a leader will delegate tasks to the team and have no other involvement until the tasks are completed or a problem arises.

The ideas surrounding laissez-faire, which translates to “let do” in French, are focused on each individual in a group and allowing them do what they think is best when it comes to problem-solving, decision making or completing a task. This style offers a lot of freedom for group members, but like all styles, it comes with its advantages and disadvantages.

Typical laissez-faire leader traits

The laissez-faire leader will often demonstrate laid-back behaviours. They offer very little guidance and let employees get on with the task without interfering. They even allow the freedom of decision-making on their own without getting involved.

A laisse-faire leader does not let employees completely fend for themselves when it comes to problem solving. They will provide the tools and resources needed, but then expect employees to take the reins and get the job done with the resources presented in a way the employee sees fit.

For this reason, a laissez-faire leader will need to be trusting and have the courage to hand over decisions to other group members. They must be able to recognise the strengths of their employees and build a team they know can tackle the project or problem at hand. Ultimately, the leader of the laissez-faire style will depend on their team to do a good job as accountability still lies with the leader.

When is it most effective?

The laissez-faire leadership style can be effective in certain circumstances, but like other leadership styles, it also has its disadvantages and can be switched out with other styles when the need to do so arises.

Laissez-faire leadership is useful when there is a team of highly-skilled, knowledgeable and motivated employees who are capable of working on their own to complete tasks. Sometimes, this knowledge may go beyond the leader’s, so it is only appropriate to let the employees finish the task the best way they see fit to allow them to demonstrate their expertise. Team members should have a passion for what they do and be motivated enough to work without much guidance.

Disadvantages of the laissez-faire leadership style

Because of the laid-back nature of the laissez-faire leadership style, it can only prove to be effective when there is a team who are knowledgeable, experienced and determined to work on the job without much direction. If there are team members who need to be set deadlines and require guidance and supervision, then the laissez-faire approach can be very unproductive.

With this style, there is also the risk of the feeling of a lack of leadership. This can lead to a demotivated team if they feel like there isn’t much concern over the task.

Laissez-faire leaders are held accountable for their team’s outcomes, so if there are deadlines not met or a project that didn’t produce the results it should have, a laissez-faire leader may be quick to pass blame onto others, creating a negative atmosphere.

How laissez-faire leadership style can work for your business

Laissez-faire leaders can really bring out the best in their employees if they are motivated enough to let their talents shine. This is especially helpful for those leading a creative team. It allows team members to work on their own ideas and show off the best of their skills for the company.

The laissez-faire leader will need to provide all the information and resources needed to complete the task that allows the group to self-manage efficiently. A motivated team will then be left to use these to the best of their ability to get work done.

Overall, a laissez-faire leadership style is great for those groups with highly-skilled and dedicated employees who are self-disciplined enough to work without guidance. This approach may be best at the beginning of a project that allows everyone to work on their own ideas before bringing them together into something more structured. At that point, another leadership style may be more appropriate. Laissez-faire is also not suitable for when attention needs to be made to detail or there are tight deadlines.

Which leadership style will you adopt?

With different leadership styles appropriate for different situations, it is important to know which is best for your business needs to see results. Delphinium’s training workshops in Leadership and Management will help those in a leadership position identify these situations and know how to better approach them. Get in touch to discuss how these workshops or our ILM Level 3 and Level 5 in Leadership and Management can help benefit your business.

Other articles in our Leadership Styles Series

What are the different leadership styles?

The Autocratic Leader

Democratic Leadership