The management process includes planning, organizing, leading and controlling both production and personnel. Some managers approach these responsibilities according to their given personality, but the best ones make a conscious decision to do so according to a specific management style. One of these styles is known as laissez faire.
Laissez faire is a French term, meaning “allow to act,” and the laissez-faire manager does just that. Laissez faire is the most hands-off management style and is characterized predominantly by delegation. This style of manager will delegate tasks to his team and then have little to no contact with them until the tasks are completed or a problem is brought to his attention. Laissez-faire management is the direct opposite of a micro-management style.
Despite her hands-off approach, the laissez-faire manager isn’t necessarily indifferent to the needs and morale of her team; in fact, the best managers only use a laissez-faire style with team members who flourish under it, recognizing that this approach will empower them, boost morale, increase productivity, encourage innovation and inspire their desire to work hard to make her look good as a reward for her faith in them. In addition, ample delegation gives the laissez-faire manager more time for higher-level responsibilities.
A manager who uses laissez-faire style with team members who require or desire more direction and supervision risks being seen as irresponsible and uncaring and managing a team who is both, as well. The hands-off approach to some of his team members considers an act of faith and confidence in them, others may consider “stand-offish,” resulting in low morale and productivity. Even when used with the appropriate team members, a laissez-faire manager runs the risk of recognizing delays and problems late in the process if they aren’t brought to his attention early enough.
Any work environment is dynamic and requires a manager who can make adjustments according to people and situations. The laissez-faire management style should not be used 100 percent of the time or with all team members. For instance, the ideal laissez-faire manager should not take hands-off delegation to the extreme, waiting for a team member to come to her or for the task to be completed; she should still check in with her team periodically. In fact, the best laissez-faire manager has some regular contact with her team, usually for the purpose of seeing if there is anything they need to help them with their tasks -- she knows supporting her team is just as much a part of her job as theirs is to support her. These periodic check ins may also result in catching problems and delays sooner rather than later and keep the team and production running smoothly.
- Management Style: Management Style
- MindTools: "Laissez Faire" versus Micromanagement
- Investors.com; Why Warren Buffett's Laissez-Faire Management Style Works; Gary M. Stern
- "The Business Review"; CEO's Laissez-faire Management Style Empowers Executives, Spurs Growth; Adam Sichko; April 2008
- "Inc."; How to Change Your Management Style; Lou Dubois; May 2011
- Dictionary.com: Laissez Faire
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images