Laissez-faire Leadership: Is that an Oxymoron?

Laissez-faire leadership is found in an environment where leadership responsibilities are ignored by the leaders and decisions are avoided or neglected by the leadership. Laissez-faire leaders avoid their own supervisory responsibilities and avoid trying to influence their subordinates (Bass, 1990). These leaders usually set no clear goals, allow organizational drift, and do not help in the group decision-making processes (Bass & Avolio, 2004). They generally allow great freedom of action to their subordinates, rarely make evaluative comments, and refrain from participating except when asked direct question. Laissez-faire leadership is consistently found to be the least satisfying and least effective of the three leadership styles measured by the MLQ (Bass, 1990; Cooper, 2005). Ministry leaders who only want to focus their attention on the preaching and teaching ministry of the local church, while ignoring or neglecting their leadership responsibilities, are often functioning as laissez-faire leaders.

The avoidance displayed by the laissez-faire leader is consistently negatively related to follower satisfaction, organizational efficiency and productivity, and group cohesiveness. Bass (1990) discussed the strong negative correlation of several studies of laissez-faire leadership and transformational leadership. Significant to ministry leadership, Bass (1990) discussed the negative correlation reported by 28 religious ministers with laissez-faire leadership styles and organizational effectiveness. Parry and Proctor-Thomas’ (2002) research demonstrated a high correlation between high displays of laissez-faire leadership and low perceptions of integrity. Similarly, Krishnan’s (2003) research demonstrated a significant negative relationship between laissez-faire leadership and moral leadership.

Now I do not know French, but I do not think it is a coincidence that “Laissez-faire leadership” sounds like “lazy leadership?” To me, the ideal of a “lazy leader” is an oxymoron anyway. Is there any question why then this style is the least satisfying, least effective, and least productive style of leadership?

Works Cited
Bass, B. M. (1990). Bass & Stodgill’s handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications (3rd ed.). New York: The Free Press.
Bass, B. M., & Avolio, B. J. (2004). The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (Form 5X). Palo Alto, CA: Mind Garden, Inc.
Cooper, M. (2005, Spring). The transformational leadership of the Apostle Paul: A contextual and biblical leadership for contemporary ministry. Christian Educational Journal, 2(1), 48-61.
Krishnan, V. R. (2003). Power and moral leadership: Role of self–other agreement. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 24(5/6), 345-351.
Parry, K. W., & Proctor-Thomson, S. B. (2002). Perceived integrity of transformational leaders in organizational settings. Journal of Business Ethics, 35, 75-96.

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  1. This “leadership” style sounds more like being a leader simply by “Position”; someone who claims the title but isn’t interested in making an investment in the process.

    I agree with your assessment of it being a “lazy leader”; if a leader at all.

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