What Are the Effects of Laissez-Faire Leadership? (2022)

What Are the Effects of Laissez-Faire Leadership? (1)

What Is Laissez-Faire Leadership?

Laissez-faire leadership, also known asdelegative leadership, is a type ofleadership stylein which leaders are hands-off and allow group members to make the decisions. Researchers have found that this is generally the leadership style that leads to the lowest productivity among group members.

This leadership style can have both benefits and possible pitfalls. There are also certain settings and situations where laissez-faire leadership might be the most appropriate.

Knowing your dominant leadership style can be helpful for understanding your own strengths and potential weakness.

To help make laissez-faire leadership more effective, leaders can check in on work performance and give regular feedback. It's also helpful for leaders to recognize when this style should be best utilized, such as with team members who are experts at what they do.

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Characteristics

Laissez-faire leadership is characterized by the following:

  • Hands-off approach
  • Leaders provide all training and support
  • Decisions are left to employees
  • Comfort with mistakes
  • Accountability falls to the leader

While "laissez-faire" implies a completely hands-off approach, many leaders still remain open and available to group members for consultation and feedback. They might provide direction at the beginning of a project, but then allow group members to do their jobs with little oversight.

This approach to leadership requires a great deal of trust. Leaders need to feel confident that the members of their group possess the skills, knowledge, and follow-through to complete a project without being micromanaged.

Examples

Here's how laissez-faire leadership could look in different settings:

  • In school: The teacher is more of an observer while students are able to do as they wish. There is a lack of expectations and discipline in the classroom.
  • At work: Leaders and supervisors stand back and let their employees make decisions and may let them set their own deadlines. They don't offer much feedback.
  • In government: A political leader who exhibits laissez-faire leadership would leave decisions to subordinates and provide little direction.

Benefits

Like other types of leadership,the laissez-faire stylehas its advantages.

  • It encourages personal growth. Because leaders are so hands-off in their approach, employees have a chance to be hands-on. This leadership style creates an environment that facilitates growth and development.
  • It encourages innovation. The freedom given to employees can encourage creativity and innovation.
  • It allows for faster decision-making. Since there is no micromanagement, employees under laissez-faire leadership have the autonomy to make their own decisions. They are able to make quick decisions without waiting weeks for an approval process.

To benefit from these advantages, certain preconditions have to be met. For instance, if your team is full of highly skilled and experienced people,capable of working on their own, this approach might work. Since these group members are experts and have the knowledge and skills to work independently, they are capable of accomplishing tasks with very little guidance.

(Video) Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

This style is particularly effective in situations where group members are more knowledgeable than the group's leader. The laissez-faire style allows them to demonstrate their deep knowledge and skill surrounding that particular subject.

This autonomy can be freeing to some group members and help them feel more satisfied with their work. The laissez-faire style can be used in situations where followers have a high level of passion andintrinsic motivationfor their work.

Disadvantages

Because the laissez-faire style depends so heavily on the abilities of the group, it is not very effective in situations where team members lack the knowledge or experience they need to complete tasks and make decisions. This can lead to poor job performance and less job satisfaction.

Some possible disadvantages of the laissez-faire style include:

  • Lack of role clarity: In some situations, the laissez-faire style leads to poorly defined roles within the group. Since team members receive little to no guidance, they might not really be sure about their role within the group and what they are supposed to be doing with their time.
  • Poor involvement with the group: Laissez-faire leaders are often seen as uninvolved and withdrawn, which can lead to a lack of cohesiveness within the group. Since the leader seems unconcerned with what is happening, followers sometimes pick up on this and express less care and concern for the project.
  • Low accountability: Some leaders take advantage of this style as a way to avoid responsibility for the group's failures. When goals are not met, the leader can blame members of the team for not completing tasks or living up to expectations.
  • Passivity: At its worst, laissez-faire leadership represents passivity or even an outright avoidance of true leadership. In such cases, these leaders do nothing to try to motivate followers, don't recognize the efforts of team members, and make no attempts at involvement with the group.

If team members are unfamiliar with the process or tasks, leaders are better off taking a more hands-on approach. They can switch back to a more delegative approach as team members gain more experience.

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Strengths of Laissez-Faire Leaders

If you have a more laissez-faire approach to leadership, there are areas and situations where you might tend to do better.

  • In creative fields: Working in a creative field where people tend to be highly motivated, skilled, creative, and dedicated to their work can be conducive to obtaining good results with this style.
  • When working with self-managed teams: Laissez-faire leaders typically excel at providing information and background at the start of a project, which can be particularly useful for self-managed teams.
  • During the early stages of a project: By giving team members all that they need at the outset of an assignment, they will then have the knowledge they need to complete the task as directed.

For example, a delegative leader might excel in a product design field. Because team members are well-trained and highly creative, they likely need little in the way of direct management. Instead, an effective leader can provide minimal oversight and guidance and still produce high-quality results.

When to Avoid

Even in situations where a laissez-faire leadership style may be helpful, such as in a creative field or with self-managed teams, it may pay to utilize a variety of leadership approaches at different phases of the work process.

Laissez-faire leadership may be most effective during the early phases when a product or idea is being brainstormed or created. Once the design is in place and ready for production, however, it may be best to switch to a style that involves more direction and oversight.

(Video) Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

Generally, this leadership style is not suitable for:

  • Situations where efficiency and high productivity are the main concerns. Some people are not good at setting their own deadlines, managing their own projects, and solving problems on their own. Under this leadership style, projects can go off-track and deadlines can be missed when team members do not get enough guidance or feedback from leaders.
  • Situations that require great oversight, precision, and attention to detail. In high stakes and high-pressure work settings where every detail needs to be perfect and completed in a timely manner, a more authoritarian or managerial style may be more appropriate.
  • People who aren't good at setting deadlines or managing projects. Using a laissez-faire approach in this type of scenario can lead to missed deadlines and poor performance, particularly if group members are unsure of what they need to be doing or do not have the skills they need to perform tasks with little to no direction.

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Tips to Improve

To make laissez-faire leadership more effective, you can try:

  • Checking in on group performance
  • Giving useful and consistent feedback
  • Creating incentives to help increase and maintain motivation
  • Making sure team members know their roles within the group
  • Ensuring group members have the knowledge and expertise for the project or task at hand

A Word From Verywell

Often dismissed as a style that leads to poor group outcomes, laissez-faire leadership can be effective in a variety of situations. If you tend to be more of a laissez-faire leader, you may find it helpful to think about the sort of situations this style might excel.

In settings where the group needs more oversight or direction, you may find that you need to consciously focus on adopting a more authoritarian or democratic approach. By examining your own style, you can hone your skills and become a better leader.

8 Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Anbazhagan S, Kotur BR. Worker productivity, leadership style relationship.IOSR-JBM. 2014;16(8):62-70. doi:10.9790/487x-16846270

  2. Amanchukwu RN, Stanley GJ, Ololube NP. A review of leadership theories, principles and styles and their relevance to educational management. Management. 2015;5(1):6-14. doi:10.5923/j.mm.20150501.02

  3. Al-Malki M, Juan W. Impact of laissez-faire leadership on role ambiguity and role conflict: Implications for job performance. Int J Innov Econ Dev. 2018;4(1):29-43. doi:10.18775/ijied.1849-7551-7020.2015.41.2003

  4. İhtiyaroğlu N. Analyzing the relationship between happiness, teachers’ level of satisfaction with life and classroom management profiles. UJER. 2018;6(10):2227-2237. doi:10.13189/ujer.2018.061021

  5. Mostofi A. The effect of class management types (Authoritative, democratic, laissez-faire) on teacher professional development among Iranian EFL teachers. JALLR. 2019;5(5):248-265.

  6. Barling J, Frone MR. If only my leader would just do something! Passive leadership undermines employee well-being through role stressors and psychological resource depletion. Stress Health. 2017;33(3):211-222. doi:10.1002/smi.2697

  7. Vullinghs JT, De Hoogh AHB, Den Hartog DN, Boon C. Ethical and passive leadership and their joint relationships with burnout via role clarity and role overload. J Bus Ethics. 2020;165(4):719-733. doi:10.1007/s10551-018-4084-y

  8. Sfantou DF, Laliotis A, Patelarou AE, Sifaki-Pistolla D, Matalliotakis M, Patelarou E. Importance of leadership style towards quality of care measures in healthcare settings: A systematic review. Healthcare (Basel). 2017;5(4). doi:10.3390/healthcare5040073

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FAQs

What are the effects of laissez-faire leadership? ›

Laissez-faire leadership often leads to a more relaxed company culture. People don't feel micromanaged or that a manager is constantly looking over their shoulder. This helps them relax, enjoy their work, and interact well with their peers. Creative environment.

When was laissez-faire leadership effective? ›

Laissez-faire leadership is most effective when the people you're leading have the ability to do their job well. Group members should be resourceful, dependable, ambitious, and confident in their abilities.

What can be the effect of a laissez-faire style on the group members? ›

Disadvantages. Lack of role clarity: In some situations, the laissez-faire style leads to poorly defined roles within the group. 7 Since team members receive little to no guidance, they might not really be sure about their role within the group and what they are supposed to be doing with their time.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of laissez-faire leadership? ›

4 laissez-faire leadership advantages
  • Employees practice leadership and independence. ...
  • Departments decide faster. ...
  • Employees use their expertise. ...
  • It boosts employee morale. ...
  • It lowers role awareness. ...
  • Employees may need direction. ...
  • The style may not best suit your employees. ...
  • Conflict may increase.
25 May 2021

What are some bad effects of laissez-faire? ›

At an organizational level, by being indecisive and uninvolved, laissez-faire leaders can lose the organization important opportunities. The damages can be especially costly when the market environment is unstable and changing fast. What is worse, laissez-faire leadership can result in poor crisis management.

What are the effects of great leadership? ›

The result of good leadership is high morale, good employee retention, and sustainable long-term success. Bad leadership can also be felt throughout the entire organization – only not in a good way.

Why laissez-faire is important? ›

A laissez-faire economy gives businesses more space and autonomy from government rules and regulations that would make business activities harder and more difficult to proceed. Such an environment makes it more viable for companies to take risks and invest in the economy.

Was laissez-faire a good thing? ›

Laissez faire works best for economic growth because it provides individuals with the greatest incentive to create wealth. Under laissez-faire capitalism, you cannot wrap a robe around you, put a crown on your head, and demand that people give you money.

What is laissez-faire and why was it so important? ›

The driving principle behind laissez-faire, a French term that translates to "leave alone" (literally, "let you do"), is that the less the government is involved in the economy, the better off business will be, and by extension, society as a whole. Laissez-faire economics is a key part of free-market capitalism.

What is the effects of a leadership style on employees? ›

The study established that autocratic leadership style impacted negatively on the subordinate performance; democratic leadership style impacted positively on the employee performance; and laissez-faire also impacted positively on the workers performance.

How does a laissez-faire government affect an economy? ›

Laissez-faire economics is a theory that says the government should not intervene in the economy except to protect individuals' inalienable rights. In other words, let the market do its own thing. If left alone, the laws of supply and demand will efficiently direct the production of goods and services.

How can laissez-faire leadership be improved? ›

Laissez-faire leadership style requirements
  1. Closely monitor group performance.
  2. Employ highly skilled, well-educated staff.
  3. Treat people as motivated self-starters.
  4. Use the laissez-faire style only with experienced staff.
  5. Give consistent feedback to team members.
25 Nov 2014

What is laissez-faire simple definition? ›

Laissez-faire is a policy of minimum governmental interference in the economic affairs of individuals and society. The doctrine of laissez-faire is usually associated with the economists known as Physiocrats, who flourished in France from about 1756 to 1778. The term laissez-faire means, in French, “allow to do.”

Is laissez-faire good or bad? ›

Laissez-faire attitudes have long been considered brutal and uncaring. The concept is based more on the unrealistic assumption that humans are naturally good and do not need government oversight to control bad behavior. Laissez-faire raises two main problems in the economy: Widening economic inequality.

What are the positive and negative effects of leadership? ›

In short, leaders set the tone for their team and/or organization. Similar to the book Zapp by William Byham and Jeff Cox, positive leadership encourages, empowers, and energizes people (zapps them) whereas negative leadership drains, discourages, depletes, and demoralizes employees (sapps the energy out of them).

What factors affect leadership? ›

All leaders should be in tune with four key factors of leadership: the led, the leader, the situation and the communication. All four factors must always be considerations when exercising leadership, but at different moments, they affect each other differently.

What is the effect of leadership in one organization? ›

Leadership has a direct cause and effect relationship upon organizations and their success. Leaders determine values, culture, change tolerance and employee motivation. They shape institutional strategies including their execution and effectiveness.

What is a sentence for laissez-faire? ›

The ultimate goal of economic reforms is a laissez-faire economy where the state does not intervene in the economy.

Is laissez-faire still used today? ›

Laissez-Faire Today

There's still ardent political support for laissez-faire economic policies worldwide, and also firm opposition.

When was laissez-faire used? ›

In the American Gilded Age (1865-1910), laissez-faire was the dominant economic doctrine of the U.S. government. In layman's terms, laissez-faire means "allowing you to do as you wish," which means the government plays a minimal role in the economy.

What are the effects of leadership on workers productivity and performance? ›

The leader is one who leads the employee to increase the productivity and productivity is the most important factor affecting the performance of any organization. Skilled and dedicated leadership can set good values. The responsibility of a leader to make workers feel comfortable in doing the job.

How does leader style affects decision-making? ›

Simply put, leadership theories help to inform the decision-making process. They provide a framework for thinking about decisions and the various factors that need to be considered in order for a business to make the best possible choice.

Which leadership style is most effective and why? ›

Democratic leadership is one of the most effective leadership styles. This is because it allows lower-level employees to exercise the authority they'll need to use wisely in future positions.

Where did laissez-faire come from? ›

The term laissez-faire likely originated in a meeting that took place around 1681 between powerful French Controller-General of Finances Jean-Baptiste Colbert and a group of French businessmen headed by M. Le Gendre.

What is laissez-faire attitude? ›

the idea that people should be free to choose how to do things, without too much control from someone in authority: If you choose a laissez-faire management style, you give your staff room to make their own decisions.

What is an example of laissez-faire policy? ›

What is an example of laissez-faire policy? An example of laissez-faire economics is where nations remove all trade barriers. For example, most nations levy a tax on imported goods, usually at varying rates depending on the product. Laissez-faire economics removes such barriers and instead allows the market to decide.

When did the government use laissez-faire? ›

Historians often call the period between 1870 and the early 1900s the Gilded Age. This was an era of rapid industrialization, laissez-faire capitalism, and no income tax.

When did laissez-faire start and end? ›

The doctrine of laissez-faire is usually associated with the economists known as Physiocrats, who flourished in France from about 1756 to 1778. The term laissez-faire means, in French, “allow to do.”

What era was laissez-faire? ›

One of the most influential ideas of the Gilded Age was laissez-faire (pronounced LAY-zay FAIR).

Was laissez-faire before the Great Depression? ›

Laissez-faire was, roughly, the traditional policy in American depressions before 1929. The laissez-faire precedent was set in America's first great depression, 1819, when the federal government's only act was to ease terms of payment for its own land debtors.

Who created laissez-faire leadership? ›

Kurt Lewin is often credited with developing the concept of laissez-faire leadership. Lewin was an early contributor to the study of social psychology. He was one of the first experts to research group dynamics and organizational psychology.

Which is a characteristic of laissez-faire system? ›

The correct answer is No Government intervention.

Why was the laissez-faire invented? ›

The development of the concept: The doctrine of laissez-faire in the field of political economy stems from the theories of a group of eighteenth-century French economists called the Physiocrats. This group argued for individualism and free trade in economic affairs.

Who introduced laissez-faire? ›

Vincent de Gournay, a French Physiocrat and intendant of commerce in the 1750s, popularized the term laissez-faire as he allegedly adopted it from François Quesnay's writings on China. Quesnay coined the phrases laissez-faire and laissez-passer, laissez-faire being a translation of the Chinese term wu wei (無為).

What is laissez-faire education? ›

First, the school's curriculum is determined by what students want to learn, rather than what teachers tell them to learn. The idea is that their natural curiosity will lead them on the road to discovery. The responsibility of teachers, therefore, is to support students on their journey.

Who ended laissez-faire? ›

John Maynard Keynes

Roosevelt's "New Deal" administration. The mass unemployment caused by the Great Depression inspired his most famous work, General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1935-36).

Which is an example of a laissez-faire economy? ›

Tax cuts: When governments cut taxes to stimulate the market, this is based on laissez-faire theory as well. The idea is that removing regulations or taxes helps put more money into the market by encouraging spending.

How did laissez-faire government policies encourage growth? ›

Answer and Explanation: Laissez-faire government policies helped the growth of American businesses by not putting regulations on them that would hamper their productivity and profitability.

Videos

1. Leadership Styles: Laissez-faire, Democratic & Autocratic Styles of Leadership
(Brainzo Learning)
2. Leadership Styles Explained (Kurt Lewin)
(EPM)
3. IMPACT OF LAISSEZ-FAIRE (GROUP4_BSHM2-1PUPSMB)
(Josa Angelil Cristobal)
4. The Laissez-Faire Leader: Good Lessons from Bad Bosses
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5. Leadership Styles
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6. LAISSEZ FAIRE LEADERSHIP THIS IS THE WAY
(Echelon Education Consulting)

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