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The Laissez-faire Leader

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  • 0:05 Parlez-Vous Francais?
  • 0:26 Laissez-Faire Leadership
  • 2:19 Leon the Laissez-Faire Leader
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sherri Hartzell

Sherri has taught college business and communication courses. She also holds three degrees including communications, business, educational leadership/technology.

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.

Parlez-vous français?

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

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