Laissez Faire leadership and Creativity

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Laissez Faire leadership and Creativity

Postby iim_2010 » Sat Dec 27, 2008 11:26 pm

While an effective and suitable leadership style is dependent on various factors such as team composition, team dynamics and the level of urgency of the situation, I have found, from my experience that the delegation style, popularly known as the Laissez Faire leadership works well where creativity and innovation are important. Needless to say, situations may arise where such leadership style must be tweaked as necessary to exercise control over where the team is headed. But often, the human mind works best when it is let free.

In the IT industry, sometimes a fresh graduate can provide a better solution than can an experienced manager. And such new ideas are crucial, if not a prerequisite for the survival of a technology company. Therefore it is important to provide for a work environment that promotes and nurtures creativity. Once apprised of their tasks and responsibilities, the teammates should be let free to choose the way to execute the tasks, with the leader staying informed but not involved all the time. Of course, guidance on how things should proceed can be offered when necessary. Teammates highly appreciate the trust and confidence the leader has shown for them, and do their best to retain that valuable relationship.

In fact, in the IT industry, people often go one step beyond and even let the team choose what tasks they will work on. The 'Scrum' development methodology is based on this concept. Research has shown that productivity greatly increases when employees can 'pick and choose' the tasks they work on.

The Laissez Faire leadership allows the team to pace itself, providing the opportunity to 'take-a-moment' to think about better ways of doing things. Conventional wisdom may advise against using this style in crunch situations, but I believe innovation is most needed at those very times.

The optimal pace also allows the team to get exposure to different and new knowledge and skills, necessary for the desired innovation. I'm assuming that the required tools and resources, such as a library or internet access are available, which is true of most modern work places. Even in traditional manufacturing factories, I believe such facilities would greatly help empower the employees. Since the leader has delegated the task and offered freedom to the teammate to pace him/herself, spending some time on personal development should be looked upon positively.

I do not agree to the school of thought that says such leadership style requires experienced, highly skilled, motivated self-starters. Any employee who is in the profession by choice, once informed of the available career paths, will give his/her best if he/she desires growth. If that is not the case, in most cases the employee isn't suitable for the job-role, and can be offered a different role from the possible choices. Since the leader is always informed on the progress, he/she may step in to provide the guidance or training for the necessary skills. Although the leader has provided the freedom of choice of the execution method, he/she must stay informed and check whether the innovative process, which the teammate has adopted, is optimal and suitable. For this, periodic discussions and brainstorming is a must.

However, this leadership style does entail a level of maturity on the part of the team. The team must understand that the leader does not delegate because he/she is incapable of or uninterested in undertaking the tasks, but does so to complement his own skills and thereby improve the output. Over time, the nature of the delegated tasks can then become more and more complex and abstract, and the leader can in turn grow in his/her career. The team can then undertake bigger assignments. Needless to add, the desire to grow is a vital prerequisite for this leadership style to be effective.

In situations where the team has immature members and/or people unwilling to grow professionally, this leadership style may not work well. Such situations can be remedied thorough a bit of counsel and sincere support. These situations are in fact, a wonderful opportunity for the leader to build the necessary trust. The leader need not wait for such situations to build relations with the team. Weekend trips or small parties can also be effective. The leaders words then have a greater impact.

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