What management style do you use? Laissez-faire (Part 7)

Having a management style is an inherent part of being a leader, knowing what your style is and how to use it for the benefit of your team makes you a better leader. When you can recognise what style you gravitate to naturally and how and when to shift gears to another style, it will help your team to be more productive, boost workplace morale and improve staff retention rates. This seven-part series is a look at some of the styles of management common in workplaces, how they can be best used and when, and how employees respond in general to each of the styles of management.


Laissez-faire Style

  • Increasingly popular style
  • Sees managers as mentors
  • Best used with established professionals

This style of management is most often used in startups and, as the name implies, has little structure and allows employees to make their own decisions without much input from management. While for some employees this sounds ideal, others struggle with the lack of direction offered. Some employees are better workers when they have complete autonomy and can make their own decisions about how and when to work and what level of excellence they should strive for, while others will struggle to produce work due to a lack of guidance or understanding about expectations.

This style requires a manager to be a mentor. They offer guidance only when approached, but due to the high level of autonomy given to the employee, the manager needs to be expert and have a thorough understanding of the task in order to gain the respect of their employee. While this style will lead some to feel a great sense of achievement, others will feel disheartened by a lack of affirmation or clear leadership. Laissez-faire can also lead to a sense of competitiveness for some employees who see the lack of strict direction as an opportunity for professional development within a structure, rather than as personal development for a long term career.

This style does not work for people who have poor organisational skills or those who are ambitious within a company, as it does not offer the benefits of a structured workplace in which to ‘work one’s way to the top,’ because there is no top. This style requires self-motivated and focused employees who are driven by their desire for knowledge or personal development. For those who are not able to employ self-discipline or who fear taking risks, this style will dishearten employees and leave them feeling directionless and unmotivated.

This style works best in a small business with a team of highly skilled professionals who are experienced and need little task monitoring. It helps people to develop their skills and take ownership of their work. Employees are encouraged to think for themselves and be problem solvers and risk-takers. This can lead to high retention rates of experienced professionals who are committed to the business because they can develop themselves in a way that suits them best. This is the best style for people working in creative industries where employees are skilled, experienced and driven towards success for self-fulfilment, which is secondary to the benefit of the business. This style works well for some people, but not others and should not be the exclusive style of management as valuable employees who need structure might drift from the business as they feel unsure of their tasks or direction.

While this list of leadership styles is not exhaustive, it gives an overview of some of the more common management styles used in workplaces today. A combination of styles adapted to different situations tends to be the most common approach to developing a business today, however, by understanding each style and the likely outcomes from adopting that style in a situation, you are also more likely to retain, develop and motivate a team of committed professionals who feel valued and respected.