Impact of Leadership Style on Job Satisfaction

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Leadership is the ability of a person or manager to set and realize goals, take swift and influential action, and encourage followers to excel (Wong & Giessne 2016, p. 757). According to Bligh et al., the primary responsibility of a leader is monitoring effectively to the performance of the juniors (Bligh et al., 2018, p. 116). The leadership styles include autocratic leadership, democratic leadership, team leadership, facilitative leadership transformational leadership and laissez-faire leadership among others (Bledow, Rosing, & Frese, 2013, p. 432). However, one leadership style may not be dominant since most leaders integrate or vary their leadership style basing on circumstances. In the Laissez-Faire approach, which is the critical focus of this research paper, the leaders significantly abdicate their duties and responsibilities (By, Ford, & Randall, 2017, p. 2). Therefore, it is an incredibly passive kind of leadership, and the leaders make minimal or no effort to supervise the work process. Employees in such leadership styles decide for themselves what wrong or right (Yan et al., 2014, p. 233; Al-Maliki & Juan, 2018, p. 30). Therefore, the primary objective of this academic paper is to examine and critically appraise the effectiveness of Laissez-Faire Leadership style on employee effectiveness job satisfaction and extra effort.

The significance of the Study

Leadership is the primary tool that organizations use to achieve their strategic goals better and increase productivity (Bledow, Rosing, & Frese, 2013, p. 432). While there are many types of leadership, there is no one right way of leading (Yang, 2015, p. 1246). Using the Laissez-Faire Leadership style has elicited many opposing views. While it promotes creativity and independence, there is also a formidable chance that it can lead to chaos and disorganization (Yan et al., 2014, p. 233). Therefore, this research paper examines existing literature on the leadership style and critically analyses its advantages, demerits, and limitations to inform future leadership practice and policy.

Methodology

The researcher examines peer-reviewed articles that were published utmost five years ago from the time of writing this report. The search terms were, “leadership,” “laissez-faire leadership style,” and “management.” The articles were focusing on leadership and management. Using most recent journals ensured that the findings and conclusions are credible and replicable.

Literature Review

Theories Related to Leadership Styles

Cognisant of various limitations, several theories guide management and leadership styles across working environments or organizations. Leader-member exchange theory, explains the association between employees and managers, albeit on a continuum flow of low to high-quality, sustainable exchanges (Power, 2013). Low-quality trades occur due to factors such as lack of trust, micro-management, lack of respect and poor information transmission, and are common in the autocratic, authoritarian and laissez-faire type of leadership (Nielsen et al., 2016, p. 359). Conversely, leaders propagating high-quality exchanges are not only characterized by the trust but also high levels of obligation and trust (Power, 2013). Most scholars have focused on ways of improving employee’s positive experiences and reducing role conflict through the application of effective leadership styles and suggested leadership approaches such as transformational and democratic (Wong, Giessner, 2016, p. 758).

Another essential theory in leadership is social exchange theory (SET). In SET employees interact while reciprocating the assistance and support they receive from other employees (Nunkoo, 2016, p. 590). The dual pathway of reciprocity substantially lacks in Laissez-Faire Leadership. However, the philosophy of Laissez-faire relies on Charles Darwin’s concept; “survival of the fittest” because employees who are competent and experienced are the ones who can easily succeed (Ladenburg, 2007, p. 14). After considering various leadership theories and philosophies, it is vital to look at how different job outcomes (Satisfaction, effectiveness, and commitment) are affected by Laissez-Faire management style.

Effect of Laissez-Faire Styles of Leadership on Various Job Outcomes

Impact on Employee Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction refers to the level at which the work environment meets the values and needs of employees (Babalola, 2016, p. 935; Garg, Dar, & Mishra 2017, p. 58). Other factors influencing job satisfaction include remuneration, subjective factors, and teamwork (Babalola, 2016, p. 935). To promote a constructive work environment, leaders aimed at improving communication systems and shared decision-making strategies (Babalola, 2016, p. 935). Therefore, valuable leadership approaches such as transactional and transformational help encourage a healthy workplace relationship (Keskes et al., 2017, p. 271).

To a significant extent, laissez-faire type of leadership can be destructive in the sense that it reduces job satisfaction especially for employees who are inexperienced and cannot effectively execute duties on their own (Garg, Dar, & Mishra 2017, p. 58). Viewed as a somehow destructive form of leadership, Laissez-Faire leaders have high chances of wielding selfish orientation that propagates consistent aggressive or abusive acts that culminate in insubordination, frustration, anger, disloyalty and other negative emotions that are detrimental to the overall organizational health. According to Keskes et al., only experienced employees exhibit a high level of job satisfaction in laissez-faire. Babalola (2016) agrees with Keskes et al. (2017) by stating that, laissez-faire leadership approach, as compared to transformational leadership, is an insignificant predictor of employee satisfaction and commitment.

Effect on Employee Performance

Numerous researches have been done focusing on the effect of laissez-faire leadership approach on employee performance and have found mixed outcomes. However, most researchers agree that job performance is a multidimensional concept and is significantly affected by leadership style (Imhangbe, Okecha, & Obuzuwa, 2018, p. 23; Garg, Dar, & Mishra 2017, p. 58). For instance, while task performance is individual’s proficiency relating to core tasks, contextual performance relates to non-technical tasks but support organizational development (Al-Maliki & Juan, 2018, p. 35). According to a study by Grewal (2016), there is a significant adverse association between laissez-faire and four outcome measures; effectiveness, extra effort, satisfaction, and organizational commitment (Grewal, 2016, p. 417). In most cases, though it promotes creativity, laissez-faire leadership negatively affects the outcome measures. Grewal (2016) underlines that the transformative leadership style, as compared to the laissez-faire leadership approach, had the highest positive effect on job performance (Kuchinke et al., 2016, p. 22). The reason for such outcomes is because transformational leadership promotes positive reinforcement. Thus, the management recognizes employee’s achievements and encourages leadership credibility (Kuchinke & Muhammad, 2016, p. 54).

When persons do something useful, and there is no reinforcement, the chances are that they will less likely do the same in the future. According to Spano-Szekely (2016), when we do something that no longer “pays off,” we are less likely to behave the same way again. However, it does not mean that everyone needs praise (101). While a majority of employees require approval and recognition, there are some who may work well in a Laissez-Faire environment where the leader provides minimal supervision and attention. Nevertheless, the challenge arises when dealing with new employees with little or no experience. A study by Yahaya & Ebrahim (2016) shows that new and inexperienced employees usually prefer transactional to laissez-faire leadership styles because it gives them a chance to learn and be guided (190). Thus, applying a laissez-faire approach may lead to derailment especially if there is no adequate feedback and guidance from the leaders. In some situations, laissez-faire environments can lead to the reduced cohesion of the team especially when members model a misperceived attitude or when they feel that their work is not valued. Such a scenario calls for an integrated strategy in which a leader first ensures that he/she trains and guides an employee before pulling back once they acquire the required expertise.

Effect on Employee Extra Effort

Several studies link robust supervisory and employee recognition systems to firm success (Garg, Dar, & Mishra 2017, p. 58; Kuchinke & Muhammad, 2016, p. 54). In transformational leadership, managers who recognize desirable behavior usually reward and reinforce the action (Kaiser, 2016, p. 110). Most workers want to perform excellently. However, there are some problematic employees, and the organization needs to effectively guide them or provide negative sanctions to help them improve their performance. Regrettably, most laissez-faire leaders fail to provide negative feedback that may lead to severe work conditions (Cziraki & Laschinger, 2015, p. 10). According to Kennedy et al., failing to address performance matters effectively may make employees think that their performance is acceptable (Kennedy, 2015, p. 489). By objectively and directly confronting an employee’s problematic behavior, leaders succinctly show that the wrongdoing is unacceptable (Wing, Regan, & Laschinger, 2015, p. 640). However, it does not mean that leaving employees to guide their actions is a bad idea. The challenge is the level or extends at which such freedom is allowed.

In dictatorial and authoritarian leadership, micromanagement prevails. In laissez-faire, employees have autonomy over their work. When a team leader has assigned a goal to a team, the strategies of reaching the goal are left to the team even when the options are peripheral. The autonomy that is provided by the leader allows the employees to feel more satisfied with their roles (Lukowski, 2017, p. 106). A study conducted by Garg, Dar, & Mishra (2017) shows that the satisfaction is particularly true for highly skilled professionals who are motivated and able to execute tasks on their own. Since they are experts and can work independently, such employees are capable of thriving well in autonomous conditions.

Discussion about Laissez-Faire Style of Leadership

Advantages of Laissez-faire Style of Leadership

Laissez-faire approach has been hailed for encouraging the personal development of direct reports due to hands-on experience (Bouncken et al., 2017, p. 391). Of course, it is not the leadership that is active, but it is the direct reports which do the actual work. However, such an approach can be challenging for inexperienced employees who can easily give up or be weeded out because of their unsuitability for the task at hand. Consequently, Carter et al. argue that it leaves only a team that is strong and most adaptable (Carter & Greer, 2013, p. 390). Nonetheless, the organization may lose employees who have a chance to effectively execute their tasks (Minseo et al., 2018, p. 257; Moorman et al., 2018, p. 277).

In any business or organization, innovation is a concept that is highly valued and regarded. All leaders, regardless of their style wish to have innovative members of their team. The main aim of the laissez-faire style of leadership is not to make life easy for a leader. Instead, it is to encourage innovation and solicitation of feedback from multiple sources for the benefit of the entire team (Mroz et al., 2018, p. 309; Thiel et al., 2018, p. 368; Aboodi et al., 2013, p. 73). Since workers are free to make a decision; they have a higher chance of inventing new methods of doing things that can be adapted. Consequently, their morale is naturally boosted (Aghashahi et al., 2013, p. 2; Clinebell et al., 2013, p. 13; Dariush et al., 2016, p. 12).

Contrary to the argument that laissez-faire results in low morale, as argued by Cziraki & Laschinger (2015), other studies have actually pointed out the fact that it creates an inviting work environment (Kırmızı & Deniz 2012, p. 175; Koech & Namusonge, 2012, p. 147; Saeed et al., 2013, p. 1460; Soieb et al., 2013, p. 91). Usually, there will be some employees who want direct guidance from leaders. However, most workers prefer freedom, independence and minimal supervision, which is the guiding principle of a laissez-faire approach (Pahi et al., 2015, p. 2) (Wallace et al., 2013, p. 165; Wong & Cheung, 2014, p. 3; Eagly et al., 2003, p. 569; Ekmekci & Tosunoglu, 2016, p. 10; Ozkan et al., 2015, p. 27). When the employees get habituated in taking a decision, they improve their self-confidence and may do better in future.

Disadvantages of Laissez-faire Style Leadership

Laissez-faire management is defined by the manager’s abdication of responsibilities and accountabilities that they are assigned (Wong & Giessne 2016, p. 757). Such abdication to perform one's responsibilities adversely affects employee satisfaction with the organization because the leader declines to meet the demands of employees. Such managers tend to offer inappropriate decision and mostly distance themselves from operational problems (Bledow, Rosing, & Frese, 2013, p. 432). Consequently, lack of adequate leadership as depicted by laissez-faire approaches can easily be translated as bullying, especially when the subordinates feel a sense of systematic ignorance and exclusion in decision making (Yang, 2015, p. 1246).

Laissez-faire style of leadership may not be a practical approach to adapting to changing circumstances due to its limitations (Nielsen et al., 2016, p. 359). Notably, workers complete tasks independently under laissez-faire leadership. Consequently, a leader practicing laissez-faire may have difficulties implementing change that must take effect immediately (Nunkoo, 2016, p. 591). The change information must be filtered down to each employee who then has the liberty to decide on whether to accept the changes. Therefore, since the decision on how a given task occurs relies on the worker's decision, and not the leadership, effecting modifications critical to business success is an uphill task (Ladenburg, 2007, p. 15).

Eliminating and avoiding a vacuum of responsibility is imperative in ensuring that someone takes the blame for wrongdoings. However, in laissez-faire leadership, a prime environment is created for nurturing void of responsibility (Babalola, 2016, p. 935). While the management will typically place responsibility on an employee who did not accomplish the task, the worker will tend to blame the administration for being overly hands-off. When the blame game happens frequently, then it can adversely affect morale and injure productivity. Hence, there is difficulty I cooperation because everybody is functioning independently. Some of the employees with opposing views become an impediment to the attainment of goals and objectives of the organization.

Limitations of Laissez-faire Leadership

Leaders with Laissez-faire Leadership style may struggle in scenarios that need high precision, oversight, and attention to detail. According to Keskes et al., during high pressure or high stakes work setting where every aspect required to be perfect and accomplished promptly, a more managerial or authoritarian style may be more appropriate (Keskes et al., 2017, p. 271). Applying Laissez-faire Leadership in such situations can result in poor performance and missed deadlines mainly if the team members are not sure of there responsibilities.

Another limitation of Laissez-faire Leadership is avoidance and passivity (Al-Maliki & Juan, 2018, p. 35). At its worst, the leadership style characterizes passivity or total avoidance of true leadership. In such situations, the leader does nothing or seems to be helpless. Additionally, he/she does not motivate followers, does not recognize members’ efforts and makes little attempts to involve with the team. Grewal (2016) contents that; some situations require a hands-on approach. For instance, when the team members are unfamiliar with the process needed to execute a particular task, appropriate guidance is necessary. Thus, the leaders lose control of the followers since accountability rests with the employees.

One of the areas that authoritarian leadership excels while Laissez-faire Leadership fails is when dealing with urgent scenarios (Al-Maliki & Juan, 2018, p. 35). In Laissez-faire Leadership the chain of command is adversely distorted. When information passes from one employee to another, there are high chances of modification, distortion, and miscommunication (Ghorbanian, Bahadori, & Nejati 2012, p. 1). Nonetheless, this does not mean that there are no situations where Laissez-faire Leadership is quite prompt in dealing with emergencies. For instance, when an employee who works in an authoritarian environment identifies a condition requiring speedy redress, he/she may need first to inform the manager who then has to decide with minimal consultations. However, in Laissez-faire Leadership, an employee can make quick decisions without following the red-herring.

Criticism of Literature

The Laissez-faire Leadership style utilizes a “hands-off” approach. Minimal guidance from a leader characterizes the style. While the employees are provided with the necessary resources to meet their roles and responsibilities, there is minimal direction provided. As such it is expected that they solve their challenges and make own decision. Creating such an environment has both favorable and adverse effects on employee satisfaction, effectiveness and extra effort (Spano-Szekely, 2016, p. 102).

Most articles reviewed point out that, Laissez-faire Leadership style positively affects job satisfaction resulting in high levels of morale. Since the subordinates take the initiative of what they perform, it gives them complete freedom (Yahaya & Ebrahim, 2016). Nonetheless, such employees need to be capable of executing the task. Thus, those employees who cannot perform the tasks may suffer from low morale and might end up quitting their job.

Some authors, Cziraki & Laschinger, (2015), Carter & Greer (2013) and Cziraki & Laschinger (2015) argue that Laissez-faire style creates a ground for creativity and innovation. While this research agrees with them, it is imperative to note that it is challenging to harness creativity in an environment where there is a disorder. In Laissez-faire Leadership style team members are free to do whatever they need to do so long as they perform their duties. Since there is minimal recognition of efforts, the employee may be demoralized to put in more effort or innovate thus affecting productivity, performance, and commitment.

While we have considered the positive aspects of the Laissez-faire Leadership approach, it is also paramount to identify the negatives. In the Laissez-faire Leadership style, there is independence (Wallace et al., 2013, p. 165). However, a challenge may arise when employees are not entirely devoted or put extra effort into their work. Under such situations, the outcome might be adverse. Lack of direction may lead to ambiguities with the employee thus creating a chaotic work environment where there are high frequencies of conflicts. In situations where the plans have failed, the employee may blame the leader for lack of clear direction.

Conclusion

The leadership role is vital since numerous studies strongly underpin that, employees performance is not only a function of experience and skills but also supervisory approaches. While there are many styles of leadership, this research paper focused on Laissez-Faire. Laissez-Faire approach can result in either favorable or adverse effects on job gratification, employee effectiveness, and commitment. For instance, while it can encourage the personal development of direct reports due to hands-on experience, promote creativity and creates an inviting work environment, the approach can lead to role conflict and create a vacuum for responsibility. Leaders with Laissez-faire Leadership style may struggle in scenarios that need high precision, oversight, and attention to detail. Nonetheless, leadership should not be confined to a specific style. A leader should select a method based on the demands and dictates of a situation. To be an effective leader, one needs to have an extensive collection of styles and be fully aware of what to use in any instance.

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January 19, 2024
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