Archives For Mastering Leadership Skills

Laissez-Faire Leadership

September 4, 2018 — Leave a comment

The word laissez-faire is a French word that means “Let (people) do (as they choose). Laissez-faire leadership, also known as delegative leadership, is when the leader has a more “hands off” approach to supervising employees. Leaders who use this type of leadership style lets people use their own skills and talents to succeed, and the leader would only intervene when necessary.

Leaders who practice the laissez-faire leadership style can be characterized as:

• Employees are given little direction
• Employees are allowed to make decisions
• Employees are provided the tools and resources needed
• Employees are empowered to solve problems on their own
• The leader still takes responsibility for their employees decisions and actions

Like all leadership styles, this type of leadership can have both positive and negative aspects. A laissez-faire leadership style may be appropriate for some situations/cultures, but not for all. Knowing the different leadership styles and the right situations to use them is important for leaders who want to succeed.

Here are some examples of when laissez-faire leadership style works well:

• When employees are highly skilled, motivated, and capable of working on their own.
• When employees are more knowledgeable and skillful in a specific area than the leader.
• When employees are passionate and intrinsically motivated to do the work.

Examples when a laissez-faire leadership style may not work:

• When employees lack the knowledge or experience they need to complete tasks and make decisions, which can lead to poor job performance, low leader effectiveness, and decreased motivation.
• When employees struggle to set deadlines, manage projects and solve problems on their own, without guidance an employee may miss deadlines and their performance may decline.
Some possible negative sides of the laissez-faire leadership style:
• Employees may lack the knowledge of what their responsibilities are because the leader didn’t properly outline their job duties and expectations.
• Laissez-faire leaders are often seen as uninvolved and withdrawn, and can appear to be unconcerned with what is happening. Employees may also care less about how well they do their job or the outcome of a project.
• Some laissez-faire leaders may even use this style to avoid responsibility for their employee’s failures. These leaders may blame their employees when deadlines are not met and goals are not achieved satisfactorily.
• Laissez-faire leadership may even be so passive that they avoid their role as a leader and make no attempt at getting to know their employees, they fail to recognize employee’s efforts and accomplishments, and may not even try to motivate employees.

Most employees require direction and guidance when they first start a job. But as the employee becomes more consistent and efficient at their job, the leader can adopt a more hands-off, or laissez-faire style of leadership. There will be some employees that will never be able to work well under a laissez-faire type of leader due to continuous performance and behavior issues.

Laissez-faire leaders may work better with people who tend to be highly motivated, skilled, creative, and dedicated to their work. An effective laissez-faire leader will provide their employees what the information and resources they need for an assignment and minimal guidance. Although laissez-faire leaders need to still ensure that their employees set milestones and performance metrics that the leader agrees with to track the project or employee’s progress.

This is why an employee performance appraisal process is so important, especially the quarterly follow-ups. The Mastering Leadership Skills seminar, Performance Appraisals – It’s an Ongoing Process outlines the performance appraisal process and why quarterly follow-ups are so critical to not only the success of the employee, but to the organization.

Laissez-faire style leadership may be effective when a product or idea is being brainstormed or created, the leader only provides the vision. This allows employees who are specialists in specific areas to join other employees to brainstorm and develop ideas on how to achieve the vision. Once the design, or goals have been identified the leader still needs to approve their decisions. This isn’t for the leader to show that they still control the process, but for the leader to buy into the plan and agree to provide the resources for the employees to accomplish the goal or project.  Leaders need to feel confident that their employees have the necessary skills, knowledge, and abilities to follow through to complete a project without being micromanaged. The leader will still need to periodically review the team/employees progress on an agreed upon time frame.

If you tend to be more of a laissez-faire leader, you may find it helpful to think about the sort of situations where you might excel in a leadership role. In settings where the group needs more oversight or direction, you may find that you need to consciously focus on adopting a more authoritarian or democratic approach. By examining your own style, you can hone your skills and become a better leader.

Well-known political and business leaders throughout history who have been characterized as a laissez-faire leader includes; Steve Jobs, President Herbert Hoover, Andrew Mellon, Martin Van Buren, Queen Victoria, and Warren Buffet. How did these successful laissez-faire leaders do it, they hired people smarter then themselves in those areas that they needed those talents, and then let the experts do their job. But, they also followed the progress of what they were responsible for, whether that be a company, industry or country. When leaders who are not experts in certain fields get to involved, making the experts feel micromanaged, may reduce their performance because they think they need the leaders approval for every decision.

Is laissez-faire style leadership good, or bad? That all depends on the leader’s ability to know when it is most effective. In order to do this leaders need to learn more about their natural style of leadership, leaders also need to when to use a different style of leadership.

The Mastering Leadership Skills Seminar series teaches employees what their responsibilities are, how to successfully coach, counsel and confront employees, documenting their performance to achieve results and what the different styles of leadership are and when to use the appropriate style in the right situation.

What Is Laissez-Faire Leadership? –
5 Famous Laissez Faire Leaders,
Effects of Laissez-Faire Leadership on Staff Motivation and Work Ethics’

Laissez-Faire Leadership Styles,
Laissez-Faire Coaching Style,


July 4, 2016 — Leave a comment
This Friday I had the unfortunate opportunity to attend a friends funeral. We never worked directly together or hung out, but we briefly talked when we’d run into each other. So I would call Glenn a friend because he was so easy to talk with, and I think that was why the church was full, not a single empty pew.
Glenn was one of the good guys, who was eagerly waiting for retirement, but didn’t make it in his physical life but I’m sure he’s enjoying it in his afterlife. Like most of us he had a stressful job with high demands. Now, I’m not saying the job was the reason he passed away, but stress can contribute to it. And that’s why we need to take a deep breath, (literally, take a deep breath), and slowly exhale.
And that’s the first tip to relieving stress, when you feel stressed, close your eyes (unless you’re driving, or walking) and take some deep breaths. Breathe through your nose into your belly and then up into your chest and slowly exhale. After about four or five deep breaths let your breath return to normal and just focus on your breathing until you’ve calmed down. Of course when you start to do this you’re actually meditating in its simplest form. Focus on your breathing and when the outside thoughts creep in, because they will, refocus on your breathing. The point of meditating isn’t to always have a silent mind, it’s to realize when you lose focus, push away the outside thought and refocus on your breathing or whatever it is that you’re focusing on. It helps to train your super computer to stay focused better. Making you more productive. I’ve been using the meditation app Headspace for over a year and you can try it for a free ten day trial period.
The second tip is to go for a walk. If you get breaks at work do you use them to get moving, or do you just skip them? You may feel like you’re being more productive if you work through your break, but in reality you’re more productive when you take breaks. You may even be more creative due to getting more blood and oxygen into that super computer between your ears. Even better, at least I think it is, is to do some Tai Chi/Qi Gong. Tai Chi is called moving mediation, you breath as you focus on the movements, getting a good workout, and building internal energy (Qi) instead of depleting it. If you’re interested you can do 15 minutes for free online at at 8:00 am and 7:00 pm ctrl time, Monday through Saturday. And there’s plenty of demonstrations on David Dorian Ross’s YouTube channel, he has a good sense of humor and may even make you laugh.
The third tip is to laugh. I know, it sounds simple enough but it helps with stress because it releases feel good hormones. Put something funny in your Mp3 player and listen to it while you walk. Who cares what other people think as you walk past them laughing, just don’t stare at them as you laugh. Mayo Clinic reports that some of the short-term benefits is that laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air and stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress. Long-term effects of making laughter a regular practice is that it improves your immune system. Negative thoughts cause a chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and illnesses. Laughter may even ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers and can help lessen depression and anxiety.
The forth tip to relieve stress is to take a vacation. I’m not one to preach here, but I know I need to take a vacation, sooner or later. It’s hard to take a vacation when you get to do what you like to do. I think the key is to find an activity that lets you lower stress and cortisol levels, the stress hormone that damages our body when we get too much of it. The Harvard Business Review articleWhen a Vacation Reduces Stress — And When It Doesn’t reports that positive vacations have a significant effect upon energy and stress. In their study, 94% of employees had as much or more energy after coming back after a good trip. In fact, on low-stress trips, 55% returned to work with even higher levels of energy than before the trip. We all know that vacations can be stressful, so to create a positive vacation make sure you; 1) focus on the details, 2) plan more than one month in advance, 3) go far away, and 4) meet with someone knowledgeable at the location.
Unfortunately, most of these stress relieving tips we’ve heard before, so why don’t we do them? It’s the big space between knowing and doing, called the potential gap. We can’t even imagine our potential so we don’t do the simple things. Which in turn cause us stress, it’s almost like our subconscious is having us do things to keep us in our own reality, that life is stressful.
Oh wait, our subconscious does keep us in what we think our reality is. Change starts with the thought that you can change, once you know you have control over your life, your stress levels may decrease. Once you believe you can change, you’re more likely to take action, not stress about not taking action.
So the fifth tip is to take control of your thoughts, as the book As A Man Thinketh states, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” In the chapter “Effect of Thought on Health and the Body,” Allen states, “Disease and health, like circumstances, are rooted in thought. Sickly thoughts will express themselves through a sickly body.” He continues to write, “Strong, pure, and happy thoughts build up that body in vigour and grace?” 
You are what you believe, if you want to get out of a stressful situation then believe that you can be out of it, then start to plan to do it and then of course, take action.
But it begins with belief.

Empowerment refers to power sharing, the delegation of power or authority to subordinates. Leaders provide their followers with an understanding of how their jobs are important to the organization’s mission and performance, thereby giving them a direction within to act freely.

There is a wide range of leadership behaviors that empower or diminish people and their performance.

Examples are:

• Shows Approval
• Shows concern and empathy
• Shows interest
• Facilitates learning
• Reinforces
• Respects
• Communicates and listens
• Sees the small and big picture
• Trusts: Tend to see the good as well as the bad
• Smiles
• Is seen as supportive
• Is assertive
• Creates cooperative and independent relationships
• In conflict situations is balanced, sees others’ viewpoints, and sees mutual solutions
• Usually uses an “I win, you win” style

• Resorts to name calling
• Uses put down statements
• Embarrasses people
• Has a sink or swim attitude
• Blames: tends to look for the negative first
• Gossips about shortcomings
• Tells, directs
• Picks on details
• Creates dependent relationships; primarily sees mistakes
• Is noncommittal; frowns
• Is seen as critical
• Is aggressive
• Creates competition and dependency
• Focuses on problems, not solutions
• In conflict looks for “I win, you lose” solutions

Ref: Just Promoted

“You have to enable and empower people to make decisions independent of you. As I’ve learned, each person on a team is an extension of your leadership; if they feel empowered by you they will magnify your power to lead.”
~ Tom Ridge

Leadership Tip from The Leader as a Linking Pin to Management

Performance Counseling is the second step in the behavioral/performance modification process. The word “counseling” denotes the degree of formality and assertiveness that is required to make this process successful. Normally, after a counseling interview is completed, a written record (summary) is made of the interview and placed in the Employee’s Performance file.

A performance counseling interview “can be” a two-way communication process. In some instances you are only interested in presenting your point of view. In other words, you are “reporting to the employee what you see – and telling them the changes that must be made.” In other situations, you want the employee involved in the process.

Pitfalls To Avoid

1. Failure to confront the problem as soon as it surfaces.
2. Acting before you understand what the problem really is.
3. Acting before you have completed the Employee Performance Analysis.
4. Beginning the counseling process with preconceived notions.
5. Failure to listen.
6. Failure to invoke consequences for non-performance.

If we fail to avoid the pitfalls, we fail to help people become the employee that they deserve to be. We also become a detriment to our organization because employees are not being held accountable for their bad behavior and performance. The good employees also start to question our leadership abilities because we avoid confrontations and set a new standard of conduct.


* This is an excerpt from The Three C’s of Leadership (Coaching, Counseling, and Confrontation), a Mastering Leadership Skills seminar.

The ultimate goal in the disciplinary process is to change behavior or performance. Not punish the employee. Therefore, we must enable the employee to maintain as much of their self-esteem as possible while focusing on the desired results. Even if the individual fails to respond to your efforts, the employee should be treated with respect and the greatest degree of professional courtesy that you can muster.

Remember, when they leave your office, you want them thinking about their behavior, not the way you treated them!

Before you meet with the employee do your homework. Don’t embarrass the employee or yourself by making allegations that are later found to be false. Complete the following eight step Employee Performance Analysis process before you interview the employee.

1. Check your facts:

a. Obtain dates, times, and locations.
b. Gather supporting evidence or documentation.

2. Outline the problem.

a. Write it out to make certain you understand what it is you are dealing with.
b. Look at their past performance and behavior.

3. Decide if you’re confronting a performance problem or a behavioral problem:


(1) The report contained numerous errors.
(2) Poor workmanship.
(3) Tardy three days last week.


(1) Acting immature.
(2) Insubordinate toward a supervisor.
(3) Disregarding the rights of others.

4. Identify specific actions you need to take as a supervisor to help the employee correct/overcome the problem.

5. Examine the sanctions for this type of issue.

6. Clearly define your future performance/behavior expectations.

7. Identify the employee’s positive contributions to the organization.

8. Write out (or outline) the main points you want to cover with the employee when you conduct your disciplinary interview with them.

* This is an excerpt from Using Positive Progressive Discipline, a Mastering Leadership Skills seminar.

Essentially, it is difficult (if not impossible) to change the behavior of some employees. Generally speaking, the only way you can hope to modify or change someone’s behavior is by:

  1. Making them aware of their behavior;
  2. Advising them of the impact of their behavior on others;
  3. Creating an environment which requires the person to change, and providing them with the skills/training needed to modify their behavior;
  4. Clearly defining the expected changes and reinforcing the changes in behavior when they are observed;
  5. Confronting the employee each time the employee responds inappropriately. Over time they may realize that you will no longer tolerate their inappropriate behavior;
  6. Clearly defining the consequences for failure to change and invoking the consequences if they fail to change;
  7. Documenting your interview(s).

Communicating Change
To communicate your required behavioral changes, a six part message format can be used. It is designed to get the employees attention, to focus on their behavior, and inform them of the consequences for failure to change.

  1. Describe their behavior.
  2. Describe how their behavior affects the group.
  3. Describe how their behavior affects the coworker who is the recipient of their behavior (if appropriate).
  4. Describe how you feel about their behavior.
  5. Describe your future performance expectations.
  6. Describe the sanctions for failure to change.

And of course, DOCUMENT the conversation and have the employee agree on the behavior changes.

* This is an excerpt from Working With Difficult Employee Problems a Mastering Leadership Skills seminar.

The intervention process is a formal “documented process” which is used to assist an employee in resolving performance or behavioral problems. The process is designed to identify problems, develop solutions, and establish a follow-up process which reinforces appropriate performance/behavior, or provides for corrective action should the employee fail to respond.

Phase-1 Intervention

When you are preparing to meet with an employee, you must decide which approach is most appropriate. Your choice of initial words and actions should be predicated not only on your desired outcome(s), but also on the type of employee you are working with.

In counseling, flexibility is absolutely necessary.  If one approach is not working, don’t hesitate to try another to gain the desired results.  The following techniques are provided to assist you in structuring your next performance counseling interview:


Initially review the previous conversation(s) that you have had with the employee, and/or events that have happened. State how you feel about the employee’s actions (I’m upset, I’m angry), and discuss how they have impacted on your unit’s (section, department, or team) productivity. Finally, ask the employee “Now, what are you going to do to correct these problems!”


This approach is non-threatening and leaves the door open for the employee to talk about what they think the real problem is. A word of caution is in order, it may be necessary to get the employee back on track if they wander too far away from the real problem. Begin the interview with a broad based question such as “How have things been going for you in the past (week, month, quarter etc.).” Don’t mention the specific problem you want to talk about until the employee brings it up. The employee knows this is not a social visit and will begin to focus in on the specific issue(s) you want to talk to them about. When they get to the real issue, then you can begin using the counseling skills that we are going to talk about.


This interview begins by saying “I believe we have a problem, and I want to talk to you about it before it gets out of hand.” “Quite honestly, I think that it’s bothering you too.” “Let’s talk about it, and find some solutions.”  “Ok?”


This approach puts the employee in your shoes and asks them “What would you do?” It begins by saying,“John, if you had an employee who (state the problem) what would you do?” Listen to their response, if it’s on track with your thinking then ask the employee, “How can we solve this problem before we have to take the drastic action you suggested?”

This is an excerpt from The Three C’s of Leadership (Coaching, Counseling, and Confrontation), a Mastering Leadership Skills seminar.

Why Leaders Fail

February 23, 2016 — Leave a comment
Leadership failure can be tied to a number of issues and/or behaviors.  But, I think it can be best summed up by identifying four separate and distinct characteristics that can be the precursor to leadership failure. If the leader lacks one or all of the following traits it can and most likely will lead to their demise.

The leader lacks the moral and/or ethical courage to do the “right thing” will eventually fail as a leader. This can include their failure to deal with a problem employee, confront behavior which could be sexist or racial in nature, or blow the whistle on illegal or unethical practices.  It requires courage to lead and there are times the leader must reach deep down inside themselves to a place that they did not know existed, to find the courage to do what’s right. Leadership is not an observers sport, it requires the leader to be involved and make the difficult calls he or she needs to make (and is paid to make) to get the job done.

The leader must be competent as a leader and they must possess a fundamental understanding of their profession.  The leader does not need to be an expert in their field however they need to know how to lead people who are the experts.  Leadership is an art not a science.  And, like all artists the longer you study art and practice your craft the better you will become.

A leader who lacks compassion is an empty vessel and may be emotionally bankrupt.  They can neither feel for, nor understand, the difficult times an employee may be going through.  Furthermore many simply don’t care.  Employees will abandon this leader at their first opportunity. Leaders often struggle with the need to be compassionate and still get the work accomplished.  This is a difficult balancing act which must be mastered by the leader if they are to be effective.

Commitment does not begin at 8:00 A.M. and end at 5:00 P.M., it’s 24/7 and it entails doing your job as a leader, taking care of your employees, and surpassing the goals and objectives of company you work for. Careers are not built on an 8 to 5 schedule.  I would go as far to say that nothing spectacular happens between 8 and 5.  Spectacular accomplishments are conceived long after everyone else goes home and they are brought to life during regular scheduled work hours.

Of the four traits, which is the most important? They are all important and critical to the success of any leader. I don’t believe you can be lacking in any one of these traits and still succeed as a leader.

* This is an excerpt from The Leader As A Linking Pin To Management, a Mastering Leadership Skills seminar.