A Case for Laissez-faire Leadership

Is there a place for laissez-faire leadership in 21st Century organisations?

Whenever we read about or discuss leadership styles, we invariably define laissez-faire #leadership as being ineffectual because leaders with this style are characterised as uninvolved or withdrawn and unconcerned with what is happening, resulting in poor business performance.

But the true meaning of laissez-faire is “allow to do.”

In my experience, when leaders “allow to do” it is typically the result of conscious thought, decision-making and consent. It is not simply sitting back and waiting to see what might happen. Nor is it ineptitude disguised as “delegative leadership.”

I am therefore wondering whether it is time to embrace laissez-faire (“allow to do”) as having an important place in 21st century leadership?

Changing Organisational Expectations

In this increasingly competitive and constantly changing global marketplace, businesses are looking for people with more than technical expertise. They want people who can:

  • Operate autonomously, or with very little guidance
  • Solve problems on their own
  • Make and be accountable for decisions
  • Contribute to innovation and creativity
  • Embrace and quickly adapt to frequent change

If we as leaders are expecting these qualities in our colleagues, what leadership styles and approaches do we need to adopt to attract, grow, nurture and develop this in our organisations?

Embracing “allow to do” Leadership

Based on the true meaning of laissez-faire, it is time to broaden our thinking about “allow to do” leadership because:

  • Leaders with an “allow to do” attitude acknowledge that they do not posses all of the skills, knowledge and expertise required to start and grow a business. So, they surround themselves with people who have complementary skills and “allow” them autonomy to play to their strengths.
  • Leaders who, “allow to do” inspire, motivate and free people to engage, contribute ideas, solve problems and to do so with very little guidance.
  • “Allow to do”leaders are effective communicators, willingly sharing and making sure that everyone has the information that they need to effectively carry out their duties.
  • An “allow to do” culture improves customer satisfaction, encourages innovation and creativity, develops capability and improves capacity for dealing with change.
  • “Allow to do” leaders nurture, support, develop and grow the leaders of tomorrow making succession planning a integral part of the organisational culture.

The Downsides of Laissez-Faire Leadership

Laissez-faire leadership is not ideal in situations where people lack the knowledge, experience, and confidence or are fearful about making decisions to achieve what is required of them. In such situations, projects can go off-track and deadlines can be missed when team members do not get enough guidance, support or feedback from leaders.

With training, guidance and clarity and as they acquire more expertise your colleagues will eventually gain confidence and can be given more freedom to work autonomously.

Time to Think Differently?

If you are an #entrepreneur or business leader who understand that the quality and calibre of your leadership is inextricably linked to the success of your company, it’s time to think differently about the leadership skills that you are valuing and nurturing in your organisation.

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