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Laissez-faire leadership

While transformational and transactional leadership are active behaviors, laissez- faire leadership is characterized by a fairly passive way of interacting with followers (Den Hartog, Van Muijen & Koopman, 1997, p. 21). As the name suggests, laissez-faire is considered to be non-participative leadership and is therefore also referred to as non-leadership. Laissez-faire leaders’ behavior is characterized by the avoidance of decision-making and the disposal of responsibility (Antonakis et al., 2003). These supervisors tend to miss meetings, often excusing themselves (Furtner & Baldegger, 2013). The interaction between supervisor and subordinates is limited and a relationship between the two parties is unable to evolve. Rather, followers substitute their own knowledge and competences for the missing leadership (Furtner, 2012; Furtner & Baldegger, 2013). In contrast to transformational and transactional leaders, leaders with predominantly laissez-faire characteristics do not actively execute leadership and success is often a result of coincidence. Team members must thus make and rely on their own decisions, and are left alone in most situations as feedback and direction are rare. Laissez-faire leadership is viewed as a counterproductive way of engaging with followers as it may result in interpersonal conflict (Skogstad, Einarsen, Torsheim, Schanke-Aasland & Hetland, 2007, p. 89). While this might be true if the leader fails to interfere during conflicts or is unable to motivate followers, a healthy portion of less leadership activity may on the other side result in the empowerment of subordinates (Den Hartog et al., 1997, p. 21). Indeed, most sources describe only negative effects of laissez-faire leadership and the suffering of followers under those circumstances, yet a laissez- faire leader provides potential for proactive followers to substitute their individual self-leadership for the (missing) leadership (Furtner & Baldegger, 2013; Manz & Sims, 1980).

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