When one is considered a laissez faire leader, he would be “hands off” of the activities of his subordinates. Basically, laissez-faire is a French word that means “Let (people) do (as they choose), thus this type of leadership allows people to use their own skills and talents to succeed, and the leader would only intervene when it is absolutely necessary. Providing a minimum level of overall supervision, laissez faire is often employed on a group of individuals who are fully knowledgeable and mature in their field with proven competence. The following are just some of the famous laissez faire leaders:
1. Herbert Hoover
Actually, Hoover was born into a family of Quakers, working to provide humanitarian relief around the world before he became part of the US presidential cabinet. He served as the secretary of commerce for 2 presidents before becoming president himself. Without any elected office experience and only relying on his engineering expertise, he was hands-off in his methods, but trusted in the experience of his team.
2. Andrew Mellon
A brilliant innovator, Mellon is the perfect example of a 20th-century laissez faire American leader, who was as comfortable in philanthropy and politics as he was in banking and commerce. He is credited with helping build the manufacturing industries in the US, including the giant oil, steel and aluminum refineries. Mellon embodies the laissez faire leader because not only that he believed in choosing talented and expert individuals to run business, but he also opposed government intervention in the form of tariffs and other regulations.
3. Martin Van Buren
Though he is not the most imposing leader in history, Van Buren has achieved many great things. He was a key organizer of the Democratic Party and was the first President who was not of British or Irish descent, but a born US citizen. In his leadership approach, he allowed his people to use their talents to help build an organizational structure for democracy.
4. Queen Victoria
Phrases, such “Heaven helps those who help themselves”, were often used to promote the laissez faire leadership style during the Victorian Period in the UK. This era is also known as the Age of Individualism, as many people worked hard using their own skills and talents to help create one of the world’s richest and strongest countries at the time, with Queen Victoria staying out of business unless it was necessary.
5. Warren Buffet
Buffet, whose success stories have been well-documented, has surrounded himself with people who he knows can perform their tasks creatively and adequately without his help, and only intervened when needed to correct an unfavorable situation, not to mention that he would even allow mistakes to happen for his people to learn from them.
However, to become successful in an era of daily productivity metrics reporting, leaders using the laissez faire style leadership should establish milestones for their staff, which means that they can no longer be completely hands-off. Modern laissez faire leaders are said to track results and stay on top of problems; observe individual and group performance; give credit where it is due; and encourage responsibility among individuals.
Crystal Lombardo has been a staff writer for Future of Working for five years. She is a proud veteran and mother. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our editor-in-chief a message here.