Delegative leadership

From CEOpedia | Management online

Delegative leadership style, also known as "laissez-faire" leadership, refers to the way leaders act with their employees by allowing them greater freedom in their work. Indeed, leaders tend to delegate more tasks to their employees and give them more responsibilities. For instance, they can make and implement decisions but also resolve problems on their own. The term leadership refers to the ability of managers to influence and motivate people in an organization to achieve a common task [1].

But by implementing this type of leadership, managers have to be careful because it cannot be used in every company and situation. For instance, it is an effective style to use when staff members are experienced and trustworthy. On the contrary, it shouldn’t be used when managers don’t provide feedback to their employees. Indeed, they will feel insecure about the unavailability of leaders. Besides, it is also wrong to use this style when managers don’t take responsibility and think employees will do for them.

It is also crucial to differentiate the terms leadership and management. They are often used the same way, but their meanings differ. Indeed, the term management is defined as a way of controlling people and administering the work to accomplish goals. Whereas, leadership is about influencing and motivating people to contribute to the success of the firm [2].

Types of benefits

This type of leadership has many benefits, but it can also bring some challenges for the company and the people. First of all, introducing delegative leadership in a firm may lead to a lower amount of work for managers and prevent them from possible burnout. This type of leadership is usually used in a company where there are too many employees for not enough supervisors.

Moreover, it can improve the satisfaction of the staff. Indeed, they have the opportunity to be more independent and flexible in their work. It can also lead to better relationships between managers and employees because they can be less stressed thanks to a less authoritarian environment. Besides, a delegative style of leadership requires trust between the supervisors and the staff. So, it can improve the company’s culture by increasing cohesion among people through collaborative projects.

Furthermore, this management style increases people's productivity because it minimizes, for example, meetings and training sessions and allows employees to focus on other tasks. In addition, it can reduce the time of discussions. For instance, for some decisions, employees don’t need to ask for the approval of their leaders and can take action without waiting for them. So, in the end, it saves time [3].

Finally, it helps employees to get more responsibilities and can prepare them to be managers in the future. Besides, it can promote innovation because employees are encouraged to take initiative.

Types of drawbacks

On the other hand, delegative leadership can also be challenging for the company. For instance, it can reduce the productivity of some employees who don’t follow the firm’s expectations. Indeed, some employees can be confused about their tasks and about whom they need to go to if there is a problem. In order to avoid this loss of productivity, managers should train their staff to be more efficient and they should talk to them regularly and be present whenever they need assistance.

Moreover, it is a possibility that delegative leadership leads to ambiguity in roles and accountabilities. It can create a lack of responsibility among the employees because some of them may not feel accountable and in the end, managers are responsible for the success of the firm. On the contrary, leaders can also use this method to blame the staff members and avoid responsibility for some mistakes. In order to increase accountability, managers have to regularly check in on employees.

Whereas delegative leadership tends to increase staff members' satisfaction by allowing them to work as they wish. It can also prevent them to work towards common goals. In this case, leaders need to increase cohesion by encouraging collaboration with team projects [4].

To conclude, leadership is a complex phenomenon because there are many types of it :

  • Autocratic
  • Democratic
  • Delegative/laissez-faire
  • Bureaucratic, etc.

They all have benefits and drawbacks, and they all vary over time as the company’s environment changes. There is no better way of managing teams because each company and each leader is different in their strategic logic. It depends on the size of the company, its main goal, and a lot of other aspects. But in general, managers need to know about the different styles of leadership, this way they can adapt to many situations [5].

Examples of Delegative leadership

  • Google: Google is an example of a company that uses the delegative leadership style. Google empowers their employees with autonomy and decision-making power. They have an open-door policy that allows employees to have regular conversations with senior executives and encourages them to take initiative.
  • Amazon: Amazon is another example of a company that uses the delegative leadership style in its corporate culture. Amazon encourages its employees to think independently and gives them the autonomy to make decisions on their own. They are also encouraged to take risks and experiment with innovative ideas.
  • Apple: Apple is another example of a company that uses the delegative leadership style. It gives employees the freedom to think creatively and to come up with innovative ideas. Apple also encourages its employees to take risks and to be entrepreneurial. Employees are encouraged to make decisions on their own and to take ownership of their projects.

Limitations of Delegative leadership

Delegative leadership style, also known as "laissez-faire" leadership, can be an effective way of managing teams; however, there are some limitations that should be taken into account. These include:

  • Lack of structure and guidance: Delegative leaders tend to provide very little guidance and structure to their employees, which can lead them to feel directionless and unmotivated.
  • Lack of accountability: Since employees are given more freedom in their work, they may not feel as accountable for their actions and decisions. As a result, they may not take their responsibilities seriously and this can lead to a lack of productivity and quality of work.
  • Lack of communication: As employees are given more freedom and are not supervised closely, there can be a lack of communication between the leader and the employees. This can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication, which can ultimately affect team performance.
  • Poor performance: Due to the lack of guidance and structure, employees may not perform as well as they could under more directive leadership. This can lead to a decline in overall team performance.

Other approaches related to Delegative leadership

Delegative leadership is closely associated with other approaches such as:

  • Participative Leadership: This approach allows for employees to have a say in the decision-making process by providing their opinions and feedback. This helps to build trust between the leader and employees and encourages collaboration.
  • Autocratic Leadership: This approach generally involves the leader making the decisions without considering the opinions of the employees. This can foster a sense of distrust and resentment among employees.
  • Transformational Leadership: This approach focuses on inspiring and motivating employees to achieve their goals. It involves creating a shared vision and inspiring people to work together to reach that vision.

In summary, Delegative leadership is closely related to other approaches such as Participative Leadership, Autocratic Leadership, and Transformational Leadership. Each of these approaches has its own benefits and drawbacks, and it is important for leaders to understand and consider which approach is best suited to the situation.


  1. Sabelo, (2022)
  2. Montgomery, (2015)
  3. Sharifi, Mohd, (2017)
  4. De Bono, Jones, Van der Heijden, (2008)
  5. Sabelo, (2022)

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Author: Emma Cartillier