Before we get to the list of famous laissez-faire leaders, I want to give you a quick overview of this leadership style, which is a summary of our main article on laissez-faire leadership.
Laissez-faire leadership is a hands-off leadership approach where team members make all the decisions. Laissez-faire leadership leads to low productivity and a perception of a disengaged leader, but it can work in skilled, capable, and self-motivated teams.
You can read much more about this leadership style in my book Leadership Styles Classics: Autocratic, Democratic and Laissez-Faire (Amazon) or go to our main article on laissez-faire leadership, or check out our leadership styles test (new tab) to see if you are a laissez-faire leader yourself.
Highly revered financial guru Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is one of the most popular laissez-faire leaders. He hires talented financial professionals who can creatively apply his principles to produce good returns for Berkshire Hathaway’s clients. He doesn’t need to be involved in the day-to-day operations, and he trusts his experienced and talented team to understand their roles and produce results.
Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004, is the 40th United States President. Ronald Reagan was one of the few U.S. presidents who practiced laissez-faire leadership. He had a hands-off approach to his administration and trusted his team to carry out their duties expertly.
Queen Victoria, which the Victorian Period is named after, is known for practicing laissez-faire leadership, resulting in her time being seen as the Age of Individualism. During this time, leadership was more decentralized, and people were encouraged to take their own initiative to build the power of the nation as well as their own fortunes.
Steve Jobs was a well-known entrepreneur and businessman, specifically known for co-founding Apple Inc. Steve Jobs often gave vague instructions to his team, expecting them and giving them the opportunity to find their own way of moving forward. This unleashed a lot of creative and innovative power within the organizations he led.
Conclusions on famous laissez-faire leaders
Just like the above leaders are examples of laissez-faire leaders, they are also exemplifying other leadership styles. I have an issue with laissez-faire leadership since it is basically a void of leadership or non-leadership. Many other people tend to consider leaders who know how to delegate as laissez-faire leaders, a conclusion I think is horribly incorrect. Ronald Reagan and Steve Jobs were also known as commanding leaders, and above all, visionary leaders – two other leadership styles that completely overshadow a laissez-faire approach to things. I would rather define Steve Jobs as a visionary leader who was good at delegating and unlocking the creativity of others rather than as a laissez-faire leader. The same applies to Queen Victoria and Warren Buffet, who by the way simply must have some pacesetting leadership tendencies as well in order to achieve the results he has.