Nursing Leadership Styles (Part III): Laissez-Faire Leaders

by TheCommuter Senior Moderator

19,462 Views | 7 Comments

An individual's leadership style refers to the manner in which (s)he leads. Three primary leadership styles exist on a continuum: authoritarian, democratic, and Laissez Faire. The intended purpose of this three-part essay is to further explore the various styles of leading. This particular article (part III) will examine the Laissez-Faire style of leadership.

  1. 3

    Nursing Leadership Styles (Part III): Laissez-Faire Leaders

    Tiara Hartman, a 37-year-old office manager at a busy methadone clinic, usually arrives at work approximately 15 minutes before the opening time of 7:30 a.m. She has been working at this clinic for five years and was promoted to the role of office manager nearly one year ago. Tiara has been a nurse for 15 years and has spent her entire career working in various clinics and doctors' offices. She was a licensed practical nurse (LPN) for 14 years prior to becoming a registered nurse (RN) last year.

    Her personality is easygoing, laid-back, friendly, and pliable. She manages a staff that consists of four LPNs, two front-office medical office assistants, one family nurse practitioner, and one physician. All of the employees at the methadone clinic have worked there for more than five years and are self-motivated. She gets along well with coworkers, has an open-door policy, and is regarded as approachable.

    Tiara has a very hands-off approach when managing the clinic. She provides support and advice if any of the staff members has questions or needs guidance, but she does not get involved in the day-to-day operations of the clinic. The staff has a great deal of leeway and freedom to do as they please, as long as they refrain from violating any policies.

    One of the LPNs recently met with Tiara to report the physician for allegedly being rude to certain staff members while seemingly favoring other employees. After patiently listening to the LPN's allegation, Tiara responded, "I think we're all mature adults who can handle problems on our own. There's no need for me to become a referee, so tell the doctor how bad it makes you feel when she's rude to you."

    Another one of the MAs approached Tiara regarding an emotionally upset patient who was complaining that he had been left waiting an unusually long time before finally receiving his dose of methadone. Tiara replied, "If you wish, you can talk to the man and tell him we're sorry. You've been working here a really long time and should already know what to do without coming to me."

    Laissez-Faire leadership is a hands-off style that allows employees to work on their own with little or no guidance. Laissez-Faire leaders give minimal direction (or none at all) and allow subordinate employees to have virtually unlimited freedom to do what they want. Authority is given to the employees and they are responsible for making their own decisions, setting their own goals, and coming up with resolutions to any problems that arise.

    Laissez-Faire leadership can work effectively when leading a staff of motivated, highly skilled, self-directed employees who have years of experience. It also helps greatly if the Laissez-Faire leader provides feedback as needed. This type of leadership should not be used with unmotivated workers, employees who have problems with time management, and new grads or novices who lack skills and experience.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jul 5, '12
    Multicollinearity, Joe V, and VickyRN like this.
  2. Read more articles from TheCommuter

  3. About TheCommuter

    TheCommuter is a moderator of allnurses.com and has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.

    TheCommuter joined Feb '05 - from 'Fort Worth, Texas, USA'. Age: 33 TheCommuter has '8' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'acute rehab, long term care, and psych'. Posts: 26,910 Likes: 37,872; Learn more about TheCommuter by visiting their allnursesPage Website


    Find Similar Topics

    7 Comments so far...

  4. 4
    I have seen this type of management/ leadership style in a few places in which I have worked or have had clinicals. The nurse manager or DON is often regarded as weak and ineffectual. The few bad apples in the place run roughshod over the good employees, making the job environment miserable. Also, lazy employees can get away with murder (literally and figuratively), while industrious employees strain to keep up with covering not only their workloads but the deficits created by the slackers.
  5. 0
    This management style doesn't work.
  6. 1
    Quote from koi310
    This management style doesn't work.
    It can work in relatively few settings where all of the employees are highly educated, self-motivated, share a common goal, and have an internal drive to get the job done. Examples would be law offices, research labs, etc.

    But, you're right. This style of leadership does not work in the vast majority of settings. The good employees will be steamrolled by their sorry coworkers and management will not do anything about it because everyone is left to their own devices.
    VickyRN likes this.
  7. 0
    This reminds me of a difficult co-worker I worked with years ago in the ICU. He would lose his temper and explode at other nurses on occasion, saying some really inappropriate, hurtful things. We always wondered why he was allowed to get away with it.

    Well, one day he blew up at a manager. He was fired immediately.

    Seems he was okay as long as he was abusing fellow staff nurses.
  8. 0
    Laissez-Faire is an effective way to lead if you know your coworkers/subordinates. The people I know that do their job and know that they can ask for help, I leave them to their own devices which leaves me more time to do my own work.

    In my current job which has a high turnover rate, I can only exercise this style when the regular staff is on. When it's the float staff they lack some serious clinical skills so I have to basically hover over them.


    I never really implemented the democratic style, it's either I know you can do the work or I cannot trust you to do the work without me reminding you.
  9. 0
    Quote from Catch22Personified
    Laissez-Faire is an effective way to lead if you know your coworkers/subordinates. The people I know that do their job and know that they can ask for help, I leave them to their own devices which leaves me more time to do my own work.

    In my current job which has a high turnover rate, I can only exercise this style when the regular staff is on. When it's the float staff they lack some serious clinical skills so I have to basically hover over them.


    I never really implemented the democratic style, it's either I know you can do the work or I cannot trust you to do the work without me reminding you.
    Interesting. Thanks for the input.

    In other words, you change your leadership style with each individual staff member?
  10. 0
    Quote from TheCommuter
    Interesting. Thanks for the input.

    In other words, you change your leadership style with each individual staff member?
    Yep, that's the case. There is no one size fits all method to deal with people so you have to be flexible.


Top