Loosening The Reins: A Deep Dive Into Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

Last updated on January 10th, 2024 at 11:39 pm

Leadership is an integral part of organizations, cultures, and society at large. While there are several leadership models, the laissez-faire leadership style stands out.

If you understand French, the term laissez-faire would make you look twice as it concerns leadership, but the meaning is an expression to render the meaning in a quick way as we will see shortly.

This post is one of a series of articles about leadership on this website. We will talk about the laissez-faire style of leadership, what it is, its benefits and limitations, and when it is appropriate to apply it.

See the other types of leadership styles.

Laissez-faire Leadership Style Definition

Laissez-faire is a French phrase that means “let them do.” This leadership style simply means the leader leaves the job for designated teams to execute with little supervision.

However, the leader makes available the framework for the team and allows them to take it up from there without interference.

Related: Autocratic Leadership Style: Merits and Demerits

In the laissez-faire style of leadership, the leaders give their team members authority to make decisions and take initiative, when necessary, as long as it’s for the good of the organization.

He encourages them to take ownership of the process. This is a plus for the employees because it’s a sort of freedom without a superior breathing down your neck.

The laissez-faire kind of leadership has come a long way. Here is a brief history:

A brief history of Laissez-faire Leadership

The laissez-faire leadership style has its origin in 18th-century France but become popular in the 19th century, prompted by the industrial revolution with the expansion of businesses which were becoming more complex.

It came about as a result of the businesses that were just starting to burgeon with leaders having a lot to do and needing employees to help out and take charge as this would help to up efficiency and productivity.

One feature of the laissez-faire leadership style is that the team must be highly trained in the task for it to be effective.

Related: Tips for Becoming a Leader in Relationships

Characteristics of Laissez-faire Leadership Style

Laissez-faire leaders are known for their hands-off approach to management and leadership.

Here are the characteristics peculiar to laissez-faire leadership:

Trust: This leadership style trusts their team so much to get the job done in the absence of close supervision. Without trust, this leadership style won’t succeed.

Less or no supervision: The leaders most times hands-off entirely from the running of the business and only intervene when their attention is needed.

They leave the entire process for the designated teams to take charge and run the organization.

Related: Importance of Democratic Style of Leadership

Open communication: The leaders take an interest in open communication even though the team members enjoy autonomy. They are willing at any given time to provide support and guidance if needed.

Flexibility: The leadership is flexible enough to include the teams as they are all willing to adapt as situations demand.

Self-motivation: Self-motivation is an obvious characteristic of laissez-faire leaders. They lead teams who are capable of doing their work independently by being proactive.

Overall creativity: Because the leadership is not dishing out orders breathing down the necks of the employees, they are creative on their own in decision-making while gaining a firm grip on how things work.

Benefits of Laissez-faire Style of Leadership

Here are the bright side of using this style of leadership:

Supports well-rooted and experienced teams: Laissez-faire leadership performs better when the team is well-experienced in their skills and so requires less supervision.

This leadership style is not appropriate for interns or people who are not confident in the job.

This leadership style empowers team members: It gives team members the leverage to make to take actions on their own and run the establishment thereby.

Creates an enabling environment for creativity: When employees have the freedom to do things on their own, growth is inevitable.

They think, take decisions, and execute by themselves which opens new windows for them to learn and innovate.

Encourages a positive work environment: A laissez-faire leadership style creates a healthy workplace by encouraging collaboration, mutual respect, and trust.

Diversity: By promoting autonomy, the laissez-faire leadership style prides diversity in ideas coming to the table.

Limitations of Laissez-faire Leadership Style

Though the laissez-faire type of leadership is admired by many, it also has some limitations. Here are some of the challenges that can be encountered when using this leadership style:

Direction deficit: The freedom given to the team is subject to abuse because of minimal supervision by the leader of the organization. Laxity also has a way of creeping in and making the team less motivated.

Imminent confusion and chaos: Laissez-faire leadership can result in confusion and chaos since there is a leadership vacuum. Every team member would want to exercise freedom resulting in an uncoordinated system.

Lack of direction: Another problem that comes up with this leadership style is the lack of meaningful direction because there is no guidance from a higher authority.

Lack of structure: This leadership approach is deficient in structure with team members having doubts about what their next task would be and where their efforts are needed.

Related: Inspiring Change From Within withTransformational Leadership

Poor decision-making: In the absence of a clear leader to give succinct direction, there will be too many captains in the boat which will result in poor decision and execution of same.

Poor Performance: A laissez-faire leadership, with the above inefficiency, can lead to very poor performance and abysmal quality of work because the employees might not yet understand the mission.

Lack of accountability: There is a lack of accountability as employees who might be mischievous would have a clear coast to execute their scheme.

Poor communication: Communication is the key to interacting with one another and when this is flawed or suppressed, it will tell on the organization. The end result is overall poor performance.

Poor crisis management: With laissez-faire as a leadership style, there would be poor mobilization and execution of available tools and initiative to manage crises.

Inexperienced employees would not know what to do in this instance, especially when no clear direction is provided.

Situations and industries where laissez-faire leadership can be effective

Just like other leadership styles, laissez-faire is not a cap-fits-all style of leadership, here are some of the situations it is known to be effective:

Highly skilled and experienced team: This kind of leadership style is effective in an organization where team members are very competent and vast in their work. This is because the leadership allows them independence in their work, to be creative and at their own pace.

Creative industries: In industries like the media, design, and advertising, laissez-faire leadership can be useful because it promotes creativity and team members can come up with new ideas.

Team-building exercises: There are times teams are built towards a better organization. This is when an organization decides to hire more employees especially when there is an expansion.

In research and development projects: This leadership style can also be very successful in research and project development institutions as it encourages trial and error as can be seen in experimentation to hone creativity and innovation.

The laissez-faire approach is an effective way to let new employees learn about colleagues’ personalities and job approaches.

Start-ups: A laissez-faire leadership approach can be effective in a startup company because, at this stage, the leaders are willing to take risks and learn from their failures.

Highly motivated teams: Just as described in the characteristics section, of this post, this kind of leadership can be very effective in a highly motivated team as they would need minimal supervision to get results.

Situations and industries where laissez-faire leadership style can be detrimental

Finance: The finance industry is one delicate area in that a laissez-faire leadership style is not needed. It will promote fraudulent activities and unethical activities which can be attributed to a lack of oversight, negligence, and risks that are not needed.

Healthcare: Using this leadership style in the healthcare industry can be detrimental. This is because it can be a source of confusion and errors and may be fatal to saving lives.

Education: Inadequate learning and progress in academic institutions can be the result of using a laissez-faire kind of leadership.

Also Read: Quiet Leadership and its Importance

Construction: In construction, just as in healthcare where the loss of lives is imminent, laissez-faire kind of leadership should be avoided. These industries require adequate supervision and guidance to avoid compromising safety and cost overruns which laissez-faire lacks.

This is because teachers and other stakeholders might be left with their own inadequate initiatives which might not be detrimental to the reputation and appropriate standards.

Manufacturing: Also in manufacturing, laissez-faire leadership can be a no-no, as competent and efficient supervision is needed to maintain standards and the trust of the consumers.

Quality issues and low productivity can be experienced with this type of leadership. Also, confusion can arise in the organization’s hierarchy if there are no clear guidelines.


The laissez-faire leadership style as a hands-free type of leadership is attractive to people who are busy with other businesses and wants a competent team to handle the task of running the business.

It is best effective when the team has the expertise and vast experience to make decisions without always getting approval from the leader and requires a high level of trust.

While the laissez-faire leadership style can be a successful style of leadership in some situations, it may not be the best option in many situations.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Laissez-faire leadership style?

This is a style of leadership that operates the hands-free approach where employees are given a high degree of autonomy to do their work without direct supervision.

What are the advantages of the Laissez-faire leadership style?

The main advantage is that it empowers the team to do their work with freedom without leaders breathing down their necks. It also makes the employees have enough time to be creative in finding solutions.

What are the disadvantages of the Laissez-faire leadership style?

The main disadvantage is that it can bring about a lack of decisive decision-making and direction which can cause low productivity and underperformance.

Also, there is a lack of accountability and effective leadership because there is no leadership figure present to enforce compliance.

When is the Laissez-faire leadership style most effective?

This leadership style is most effective with high skilled employees who have good experience in the area of work. At any given point, they know what to do and what they are expected of.

This type of leadership does well in creative industries like art studios, research labs and tech startups.

When is the Laissez-faire leadership style not effective?

It’s not advisable and effective in healthcare industries, finance, construction and many others that the risk to human lives are to be considered. These industries require competence and expertise to perform.


  1. What Is Laissez-Faire Leadership?
  2. Laissez-faire Advantages
  3. What is Laissez-Faire Leadership Style? definition and meaning
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Pious Clements is the insightful voice behind "The Conducts of Life" blog, where he writes about life ethics, self-development, life mastery, and the dynamics of people and society.

With a profound understanding of human behaviuor and societal dynamics, Pious offers thought-provoking perspectives on ethical living and personal growth.
Through engaging narratives and astute observations, he inspires readers to navigate life's complexities with wisdom and integrity, encouraging a deeper understanding of the human experience and our place within society.