Laissez-faire leadership is considered one of the least effective leadership styles, which I can attest to with my CEO career experience. This article provides a few pointers on how to be effective as a laissez-faire leader, although selecting another leadership style would be a far better option.
The following explanation of laissez-faire leadership is taken from our main article on the laissez-faire leadership style:
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 can work in skilled, capable, and self-motivated teams.
How can you be an effective laissez-faire leader?
Laissez-faire leadership can work in creative environments such as digital marketing agencies and similar. However, you must ensure that the following areas are covered for the leadership style to work well. I am writing this with mixed feelings since the definition of Laissez-Faire leaves room for intention and lack of intention. In the latter case, it seems illogical to explain how to effectively apply “zero leadership”. Basically, how to most effectively be completely ineffective. So, let us assume that laissez-faire is an active choice for a moment as we go through the following points. (Find out if you have laissez-faire leadership tendencies here: Leadership Styles Test.)
1. Bring the right talent together
A laissez-faire leader should have a keen eye for spotting the right talent and use them to build a team with people who complement each other. This is often difficult to do and, therefore, requires immense skill. You should understand the organization’s goals and the type of talent needed to make those goals possible. The team should be talented, experienced, able to work together, and committed to helping the organization achieve its goals. This allows the leader to take a step back and perform the role of ensuring the team has exactly what it needs to get the job done.
Furthermore, it can take a lot of time to find the right people and try them out so you know they are the right ones. Getting a stable team consisting of the right individuals can sometimes take years.
2. Provide resources and support as needed
A big part of the laissez-faire leader’s role is being able to provide the team with exactly what they need. Therefore, the leader has to be very resourceful. Some tips to enhance resourcefulness include:
- Networking – It helps to build a large network of influential people. Being able to pick up the phone and call someone who can help find the necessary resources can make a big difference. Since you won’t be highly involved in the day-to-day functioning of the team, you should use that time to attend networking events and build a wide network.
- Problem Solving – Strong problem-solving skills are necessary to determine how best to provide the team with what it needs.
- Negotiation – Getting the right resources sometimes requires negotiating the best terms. A laissez-faire leader with strong negotiation skills has an edge.
3. Empower your team: Don’t be a micromanager
You should be able to relax and allow your team the creative freedom they need. Sure, the blame rests on your shoulders if anything goes awry. That’s one of the downsides of being a laissez-faire leader. However, if you can’t relax and allow your team to do what they need to do, laissez-faire leadership may not be right for you.
Last but not least: don’t work too hard at becoming effective at one of the most ineffective leadership styles there is. Consider better and more modern situational approaches to leadership, such as the situational leadership model, leadership styles by Goleman, transformational or transactional leadership, etc. You can read about all of them and many others in our portal: leadership styles. Try our Lewin leadership styles test (new tab) to see if you are an autocratic, democratic, or laissez-faire leader.
4. Ensure accountability
Despite being delegative and hands-off, ensure that you keep the team accountable. If you cannot muster the power on your own to do this, try to build a culture of accountability in such a way that the team members will hold each other accountable. This can be achieved by setting clear expectations between team members or asking them to define these expectations themselves. If done right, this can lead to a checks and balance approach where team members know what to demand, request and wish from others, thus creating accountability within the team.
5. Ensure there is a vision with defined goals and targets
This goes against the nature of a strict laissez-faire leader, but a good vision with set goals can help unify the team as well as serve as a basis of accountability for the future. These goals and targets can be broken down into expectations and play right into ensuring accountability, as explained above.
Remember that the best and most crucial tip is to not depend on laissez-faire leadership. After all, as you can read in our main article on laissez-faire leadership, it has been proven ineffective several times. Instead, I strongly urge you to learn and use the six leadership styles by Goleman, which I have used successfully during my leadership career, including CEO positions in global companies.