Leadership skills sometimes manifest under unlikely circumstances, and while many leaders have a specific command style, tend to have distinct leadership styles they may find that their style does not suit every situation. Laissez faire leadership style is one of the primary examples. Laissez-faire, or “no interference”, refers to leadership taking a distinctly hands-off approach to their teams and workers. This usually involves delegating tasks to a team member or several members.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Laissez Faire Leadership
For example, a recruitment manager may assign the necessary correspondence or dialogue with a staffing agency or hiring partner to an assistant manager. A key accounts director may require a junior accounts manager to take point on a crucial client account. There can be many laissez faire leadership examples among your own leadership, even if the hands-off approach is only sometimes visible.
A hands off leadership style is based on the assumption that the business leader has competent teams and resources upon which to rely. Whether the approach is successful or not depends on the variables specific to the business itself. However, it does present certain significant and undeniable potential benefits. At the same time, there can be a flip side of potential outcomes that defeat the purpose of the whole leadership style. Read on for a closer look at both pros and cons of laissez faire leadership.
The Advantages of Hands Off Leadership
Laissez faire leadership is a great leadership method when it works. In order to do so, certain conditions must be in place. For example, it assumes that the workforce is uniformly competent. This can be true if you have used, hypothetically, the same mortgage staffing agency to source all talent for your mortgage firm; but this may still be a tough condition to replicate in the real workplace.
It also assumes workers will flourish under the lack of close scrutiny. By that same logic, it encourages junior resources to take on meaningful work and be accountable for their successes or failures. Here are some of the most important business benefits a laissez faire leadership can deliver:
Workers Can Discover and Nurture Individual Skills
Many businesses have world-class talent within their ranks that may toil in relative anonymity. Often, this is because the workers are not given enough opportunities to discover, display, and hone their individual skills. A laissez faire leadership, however, may give workers the right conditions to explore their professional talents and improve them, all while working independently of direct supervision.
This can manifest future leaders in the workforce, who could positively impact many aspects of the business from talent acquisition strategies to compensation models.
Employees Get Diverse and Hands-On Experience
Another huge benefit of this leadership style is that it offers employees very valuable and diverse work experience. Where your competition may be used to doing things in strict a hierarchy, your workers could be acquiring more diverse business exposure than even the most seasoned employees in your competitor’s workforce. This ultimately translates into a significant edge in terms of workforce capacity, capability, and productivity.
More Space for Innovation
The independence that comes from a hands off leadership approach can often prove to be a catalyst for workplace innovation. When workers and teams are working without direct supervision or management interference, they tend to run into problems. While a business leader may know his or her way around these problems, an employee encountering them for the first time may not.
This can create a situation where workers begin to think outside the box and exercise unique approaches to solve the problem. In some cases, they may even innovate solutions that are better than the ones in place.
Boosts Job Satisfaction and Employee Morale
Finally, the increased levels of job satisfaction and workforce morale deserve recognition as well. Job satisfaction and motivation are key employee metrics that can have a direct correlation with productivity. As is commonly accepted in business circles, satisfied and motivated employees tend to outperform their peers.
Therefore, increased independence, opportunities for innovation, and exposure to meaningful work coming from laissez faire leadership can all prove powerful factors to boost workforce motivation and satisfaction levels.
The Disadvantages of Laissez Faire Leadership
There are several very real and useful advantages to hands off leadership. As before, however, this leadership style is contingent on the pre-existence of conditions like talented workers, innovative ability, and dedication to the job. It can often result in several disadvantages in the real world, including:
Undermining Top Leadership
The biggest disadvantage to laissez faire leadership is that it reduces the value of actual business leaders within an organization. Employees can easily become overconfident in their abilities. With nobody micromanaging their actions, they may feel like they do not have to seek the necessary approvals or feedback before proceeding.
While certain actions may turn out to be beneficial, bypassing the hierarchy and business protocols usually indicates an undermining of leadership. In a nutshell, workers may stop relying on leaders for guidance or management.
Weakening Teamwork and Cohesion
With independent tasks and little to no scrutiny, teams may begin to disintegrate. Laissez faire leadership can delegate individual responsibilities to individual workers. And while these workers may take on these responsibilities, they may lose sight of the bigger picture. With each worker possessing only compartmentalized responsibility, there is a greater risk of miscommunication, task duplication, and general inefficiency.
It can also lead to confusion regarding the lines of communication and reporting, which means teams can often lose direction when working on a project.
Risks of Delegated Accountability
Delegating responsibility is a bonus that comes with leadership. That said, responsibility also implies the burden of accountability. While many workers may be willing to take on more responsibility than their designated role, almost all of them will be more reluctant to take on more accountability. There are several risks associated with delegated accountability.
For one, it could imply a leader shifting off the blame for a project or task onto a less prolific employee. It could also cause employees to shirk taking responsibility for decisions that are perceived as being above their pay grade.
In Conclusion – Good or Bad?
There is often no sure way to tell if a laissez faire leadership model will be good for your business. Of course, metrics from a centralized hiring program, performance measurement, and even broader payroll information can offer valuable insights. Comparing these metrics before the leadership change and after the change can often give you a better idea of how well the leadership is working out.
With stronger hiring, better performance, and sustainable payrolls, a hands-off approach may be safer. But in the absence of these, it could be far riskier.