Laissez-faire characterizes a tendency not to interfere, and is often used to refer to the opposition to government economic interference in capitalist economies. Similarly, laissez-faire leadership is a hands-off leadership style and stands in contrast to micromanagement.
What is Laissez-Faire Leadership?
Laissez-faire leadership is sometimes referred to as benevolent neglect. Organizational leaders who adopt this style tend to be disconnected from the daily operations of their organizations. A boss might, for example, tend to delegate tasks and have very little information about what is going on in the organization. A president or prime minister might take few proactive stances or do little to influence legislation. Laissez-faire leadership can be a choice; perhaps a leader trusts his or her workers and believes they do not need oversight or constant supervision to do the job. But this leadership style can also be a product of incompetence, distraction, or being overwhelmed by the complexity of an organization.
Benefits of Laissez-Faire Leadership
Micromanagement is a destructive leadership style that can interfere with critical thinking and creative solutions, and laissez-faire leadership avoids these problems. In organizations staffed by competent people, laissez-faire leadership can allow creativity to shine through and enable strong employees to make good decisions.
Risks of Laissez-Faire Leadership
Organizations need leaders to guide them, to establish goals, and to oversee employees. If no one sets goals for an organization, laissez-faire leadership can quickly cause problems. Employees who receive little to no feedback might struggle to know their job objectives, and incompetent or absent supervision can cause problems among the people they oversee who struggle with motivation and who need external support and guidance to reach their goals. Studies indicate that positive feedback about worker’s work performance can increase motivation and productivity.
- Cherry, K. (n.d.). What is laissez-faire leadership? About.com Psychology. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/leadership/f/laissez-faire-leadership.htm
- Skogstad, A., Einarsen, S., Torsheim, T., Aasland, M. S., & Hetland, H. (2007). The destructiveness of laissez-faire leadership behavior. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12(1), 80-92. doi: 10.1037/1076-89126.96.36.199
Last Updated: 08-11-2015
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