Laissez-Faire leadership is a leadership style that comes from a French term that translates as “leave alone” (literally, “let you do”). It concerns an absentee leadership style which is based on the premise that the less leadership is involved the better the outcomes will be.
There are some personality types that cannot stand to be led. These personality types would prefer to work for an Uber, Door Dash, etc. They do not want to be micro-managed and leadership to them appears to be micromanagement no matter how slight.
In Laissez-Faire leadership, the leadership present the tools and supplies and leave the people to it. They may be on-site or off-site, and a call away should an event occur that requires their presence. High creatives do not generally need much leadership. There are situations in which the leadership doesn’t know or have to know the technical or art side of what their people are doing, they just have the desired result, and they can best serve the people by supporting and getting out of the way.
This style of leadership is also referred to as delegative leadership, where the leader appoints different roles to people and ‘sets it and lets it.’ When things begin to look constrained, they do not jump in and try to get tight-fisted. This is the real key to laissez-faire leadership, ‘letting go.’ Many leaders do not have the discipline to walk away. In parenting, some would say that they want their child to figure it out because they are going to have to live alone and be able to depend on themselves someday.
Laissez-faire leadership is not for the obsessive over control. It is based on Trust. The key to laissez-faire leadership is to build a strong team and then got out of their way. It says to subordinates, “do what you want, as long as you do it right.” These leaders are outcome-oriented. This is a style often seen in a start-up or creative/innovation-based stage of product development or project management, and once that stage is finalized and the project is over or the product is designed it is handed over to another department that is responsible for deploying budgets, or deciding strategy. There is usually a different form of leadership for that stage.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines laissez-faire leadership as:
“A philosophy or practice characterized by a usually deliberate abstention from direction or interference, especially with individual freedom of choice and action.”