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Strengths and Weaknesses of a Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

Leadership style can be a nuanced blend of strategies and attributes, but styles tend to be categorized in one of three main ways: authoritative, democratic and laissez-faire.

Manhattan College's online Master's in Organizational Leadership will give you the skills to unlock your leadership potential, but here, we go deeper into the strengths and weaknesses of laissez-faire leadership styles.

Laisses-Faire Characteristics

As a term, “laissez-faire” means a policy or attitude of letting things take their course with minimal interference. For example, a laissez-faire economic policy allows businesses to operate with very little government oversight.

In leadership, this approach is characterized mainly by delegation. A laissez-faire leader is often “hands-off” when it comes to decision-making and relies on subordinates to handle both small details and large strategic directions.


If a team is made up of highly experienced and motivated self-starters, a laissez-faire leadership approach can prompt them to feel a greater sense of freedom and responsibility. This type of team thrives under the delegation model. Managers feel more in control of their teams, and there’s a greater sense of working independently of the leader or team manager.

Laissez-faire leaders can inspire more creativity from those who do best working autonomously and who take orders and directives.


Those who work for authoritarian leaders can feel stifled by so much oversight, but the opposite problem occurs with laissez-faire leadership styles.

With too much delegation, employees may feel overwhelmed by their duties or even resentful toward a leader they may perceive as absent.

In addition, a hands-off approach may limit a leader’s interactions with team members which may make employees feel disconnected or ignored by their leader. This can lead to low productivity and a distinct lack of accountability.

Career Tracks

Laissez-faire leaders tend to do best when overseeing teams of self-motivated workers. For example, this type of leader might helm a project team made up of contractors who are working on a short-term basis.

Other independent workers who do well with a laissez-faire leadership approach might be researchers, inventors, scientists and software developers. Professions like these tend to attract those who are driven by the work, not by their managers.

Laissez-faire leaders can give them the latitude they need to succeed.

Leadership Approach

To learn more about your leadership style and the strengths and areas of opportunity associated with each, take the Leadership Quiz from Manhattan College.

No matter which of the three approaches you identify with the most, it can be extremely helpful to understand all styles of leadership to help you navigate within an organization. Recognizing their differences can help you develop your own style as well as work with other leaders in more efficient ways.

The Online M.S. in Organizational Leadership from Manhattan College offers collaborative, experiential learning paired with skills that can be used in real-life career settings. This combination results not just in a roadmap for leadership but the roadmap you need to become an outstanding leader.

To learn about Manhattan College’s Online Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership, request information or call (855) 841-2843 to speak with Admissions.