Laissez-Faire Leadership is a form of leadership that offers many benefits for startups. In fact, if you currently work at a startup, you’re likely practicing a laissez-faire management style without even realizing it! In this article, we’ll briefly cover what laissez-faire leadership is and three benefits that it can bring to your startup.
What is Laissez-Faire Leadership?
Laissez-faire leadership is a hands-off management style based on trust and is the direct opposite of micromanagement. Laissez-faire managers set clear visions and give their direct reports autonomy to make decisions in whatever way they best see fit.
Fun fact: Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, is known for taking a hands-off, or laissez-faire, approach to management. Other famous laissez-faire leaders include Warren Buffett, founder of Berkshire Hathaway, and Donna Karan, founder of DKNY.
Before we cover the advantages of laissez-faire leadership for startups, it’s worth mentioning why some are opposed to this leadership style. Those who oppose it prefer a hands-on, involved approach and wish to be closely involved in project implementations. Others find that a laissez-faire approach leads to time mismanagement, especially when there is a lack of accountability amongst team members.
Although those qualms are valid, we still believe that most startups would benefit from laissez-faire leadership. Next, we’ll cover the 3 biggest benefits laissez-faire leadership brings to startups.
Benefit 1: Empowers employee creativity
Laissez-faire leaders bestow trust and autonomy onto employees and give them free reign to learn through trial and error. In other words, they give their teammates goals and freedom to achieve those goals.
When given the freedom to make decisions, employees tend to be more creative because they aren’t simply handed a “right answer”. Creativity is important and is increasingly a competitive advantage for startups, especially as they battle large incumbents like Google and Amazon.
Ambitious startups thrive on innovation, rapid iteration, and new ideas, making laissez-faire leadership a great fit for any fast-growing company.
Benefit 2: Attracts employees who thrive in fast-paced, dynamic environments
Paul Graham famously notes that “a startup is a company designed to grow fast.” Employees who effectively deal with ambiguity and who are fast learners are more likely to thrive in the dynamic, fast-paced nature of startups. Such employees likely chose to work at startups because they thrive in unpredictable environments and wouldn’t do well with overly-prescriptive management styles.
Micromanagement has no place in an environment like a startup, where growth and changes are the only constants. In such environments, micromanagers would be bottlenecks to growth, as work would be inhibited unless their directives were given. Instead, startups value resourcefulness and autonomy, two values that laissez-faire leaders encourage.
Benefit 3: Is suitable for remote work
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, most companies have implemented work-from-home policies until 2021. As these companies work remotely, many realize that given different working hours and timezones, it’s no longer realistic to equate online presence with productivity. Rather, the more productive approach is to focus on output and results.
Laissez-faire leaders empower remote teams to thrive because they don’t need to force employees to install intrusive tracking software in order to feel confident that work is getting done. Instead, they delegate, set tangible milestones, unblock teammates as necessary, and trust that they will accomplish those goals. This allows employees to execute on their current projects in whatever way works best for them.
Laissez-Faire Leadership is Great for Startups
Ultimately, laissez-faire leadership empowers employee creativity, attracts employees who thrive in fast-paced environments, and is suitable for remote work. Startups looking to differentiate themselves and stay competitive should consider implementing this style of leadership.