Hands-Off Leadership

A Hands-Off Leadership Approach Can Be Experienced as Passive Leadership

A hands-off leadership approach (also known as Laissez-faire leadership or delegation-oriented leadership) is a leadership method in which the leader leaves the team and staff members to make most (or all) of the business decisions without supporting them with guidance, coaching, or input.

Research has found that this leadership style tends to result in low productivity and can quickly turn into an unintentionally passive or even passive-aggressive approach.  This passive style is often used at a high cost to the organization.

Effective Leaders Will Adapt Their Leadership Style to the Situation

Some Leaders believe that because they don’t like to be micromanaged, they should let their employees work completely independently. While there are situations in which this style is beneficial, it isn’t effective in all situations and with all employees.

Effective leaders vary their leadership style based on the specific situation and employee(s) they are interacting with.

When you use Situational Leadership (according to the model created by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard), you assess the individual(s) involved (on a scale from Very Capable to Unable/Insecure) and the situation, to choose your approach from the following styles: telling, selling, participating, or delegating.

Working with a Leadership Coach can help you learn to select the best leadership style for each situation.

Is Your Hands-Off Leadership Approach Making You Too Passive?

In this video, Sherri Cannon, PCC, Executive Coach, and Donna Schilder, MCC, President, Donna Schilder Coaching, discuss why some leaders use a consistently passive leadership approach.  In addition, they highlight why Situational Leadership is a better leadership style.

Is Your Hands Off Leadership Approach Making You Too Passive?

Is Your Hands-Off Leadership Approach Making You Too Passive? – Video Transcript

Sherri Cannon, PCC, Executive Coach:

Because this idea that I was reading when I was preparing, this idea that maybe somebody who doesn’t want to micromanage will become way too hands-off. And I can remember being that boss that didn’t want anybody to see me that way. So what’s your experience with that?

Hands-Off Leadership May Become Unintentionally Passive-Aggressive

Donna Schilder, MCC, Executive Coach:

Absolutely. And it turns into being passive. It’s not meant to be passive, but it is. It’s almost passive-aggressive sometimes even. But not-


Yeah, how so? How might it be passive-aggressive almost?


Well, if a leader doesn’t like somebody they’re leading, and they don’t go and interact with them and give them feedback, that’s a passive-aggressive approach. But if they just think, my people need to learn it on their own, and I don’t want to be micromanaged, and so I won’t micromanage, but they don’t realize that maybe the people at the level below them need a little bit more management.

Create an Individualized Leadership Style Based on the Individual and Situation

And they’re not situationalizing. They’re not giving one person more management and one person less, based on what their needs are. So they’re just kind of pulling back, not interacting, and that can be just incredibly detrimental to the individuals and the team.


So I love that, that situationalizing versus my one chosen leadership or management style is supposed to just do the distance and work for everybody.


Yeah. In order to get the best business results, we have to shift who we are as leaders and how we communicate with each person. We communicate with both our staff, our peers, our superiors, our customers, everyone. And the more you know about different ways of leading, the more you have different choices.

And also, we go deep, so that we find out the emotional things that drive behavior, which make us not at choice.

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