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This lesson describes the characteristics of the laissez-faire leader. Learn the characteristic style of this type of leader and what to expect from this leadership style.

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French fries, French kiss, French braid, French toast, French door, French dressing, French manicure..

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.while these phrases might be as close to speaking French that you will ever get, one actual French phrase that you should know that relates to management is laissez-faire, or leave it be.

Laissez-faire Leadership

French lessons aside, when placed into the context of leadership, the term laissez-faire depicts a leader who allows subordinates to work on their own. The laissez-faire leader is the opposite of autocratic leadership, where people have complete control over their employees, much like a micromanager. Laissez-faire leaders offer their subordinates autonomy, providing them with all of the resources and information they need to do their jobs and intervene only by request or when there is a problem.

This leadership style can be highly intentional but also terribly accidental at the same time. Essentially, some laissez-faire leaders purposefully work to provide their followers with freedom to manage their own tasks and deadlines, while other laissez-faire leaders fail to provide their employees with adequate leadership and structure, leaving them to fend for themselves.Effective laissez-faire leaders understand that while they can practice a more hands-off approach to leadership they still have a high level of responsibility to their followers. The effective laissez-faire leader still monitors the performance of their employees and provides them with feedback on a regular basis. They simply refrain from micromanaging them.

In doing so, the laissez-faire leader is able to promote a higher level of job satisfaction and productivity as long as the employees themselves are knowledgeable, experienced self-starters. Monitoring employees is a critical activity for the laissez-faire leader to identify when subordinates lack the necessary skills, training, expertise, and motivation to effectively manage themselves.

Leon the Laissez-faire Leader

To better understand laissez-faire leadership, let’s take a look at this example.Leon is a laissez-faire leader, and he’s in charge of the daily operations at his family’s winery. As a laissez-faire leader, Leon prefers to allow his employees to manage themselves. The laissez-faire style of leadership is most fitting for Leon because he runs a family business, so the majority of the workers are either family or have worked at the winery for an extended period of time.

Leon knows each of the employees are skilled and knowledgeable enough to handle their responsibilities on their own. Leon only needs to check with his staff periodically to make sure that they are maintaining a high level of productivity in whatever tasks they are responsible for at the winery.He also holds bimonthly performance assessment meetings with each individual employee to evaluate their performance and goals.Leon is confident that the laissez-faire leadership style works well for his family’s business because he is able to provide each employee with a high level of autonomy resulting in an increased level of job satisfaction in employees, making his winery a place where the staff enjoy coming to their jobs each day and are ready to do whatever it takes to help the winery be a successful business.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. Laissez-faire is a French phrase which translates into leave it be. When placed into the context of leadership, it depicts a leader who allows subordinates to work on their own.

The laissez-faire leader is the opposite of an autocratic leader in that the laissez-faire leader offers their subordinates autonomy, providing them with all the resources and information they need to do their jobs, intervening only by request or when there is a problem. The leadership style can be intentional, promoting a high level of job satisfaction and productivity but can also be accidental at the same time. The effective laissez-faire leader doesn’t just ignore their employees; rather they will monitor their performance and provide them with feedback on a regular basis.

Doing so allows them to identify when subordinates lack the necessary skills, training, expertise, and motivation to effectively manage themselves.

Lesson Objective

After viewing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Define the term ‘laissez-faire’ and describe how it is applied to followers by a laissez-faire leader
  • Identify the the two kinds of laissez-faire leadership and describe the effects of each type
  • Understand what the effective laissez-faire leader gains by monitoring his employees and providing them with regular feedback
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