insights@IMD No.37 - IMD Business School

Everything you need to know about delegative leadership

Last update: January 2024

Delegative Leadership

Identifying your preferred leadership style is the best way to cement yourself as a knowledgeable and successful leader. All leaders and those interested in becoming leaders must understand the different leadership styles: transformational, authoritative, transactional, participative, and delegative leadership.

Each leadership style has unique characteristics, benefits, and potential to help grow your career. This article will cover delegative leadership to help you determine if this style is best for you.

Get a complete view of delegative leadership:

  1. What is delegative leadership
  2. How delegative leadership can change you and your career
  3. What are the benefits of using a delegative leadership style
  4. How can you become a delegative leader?

1. What is delegative leadership, and what are its key characteristics

Delegative leadership, referred to by many as laissez-faire leadership, is a less intrusive style where a leader delegates tasks and initiatives to individual team members. Delegative leadership is considered less intrusive because it gives more control and power to the team.

Delegative leadership requires leaders to trust their employees and their skills. Delegative leadership is primarily hands-off and can only be successful and sustainable when there is complete trust between a leader and their employees. Delegative leaders refrain from micromanaging tasks and allow team members to rely on their judgment for the best actions and strategies.

Delegative leadership can be successful if a team is composed of members that are consistently reliable and take responsibility for the work they present. While delegative leadership is a valuable leadership style for many, the laid-back attitude can be challenging for some employees to adapt to, making it essential to have open communication and familiarity between team members.

2. How delegative leadership can change you and your career

Though a laissez-faire approach might seem like the leader isn’t doing any work, this is far from the truth for successful delegative leaders. Delegative leadership benefits your career and reputation amongst colleagues when executed correctly. While finding a balance between allowing your employees to be independent and remaining somewhat involved is challenging for some, the results can be advantageous.

Delegative leadership still requires leaders to support and train team members. You gain respect as a leader when your employees successfully navigate their own tasks based on your training and guidance. Additionally, delegative leaders often find success by guiding a project’s start and allowing employees to take what they’ve learned and implement it into their work.

Delegative leadership reflects positively on you and your team members and builds trust between everyone. By mastering this leadership style, your team will learn to think independently while still collaborating and getting feedback from their coworkers. This style can be excellent for building trust and open communication between employees. When successful, delegative leadership will show that your company is reputable for its actions and the accomplishments and skills of every person in your organization.

3. The benefits of using a delegative leadership style

A delegative leader stands to benefit massively when successfully implementing this unique style. There are various benefits your company will gain if you master delegative leadership and your team adapts to a hands-off approach where they have as much influence on a project as everyone else. Below are some ways delegative leadership can benefit your organization and help produce high-quality work.

Delegative leadership boosts creativity

Delegative leadership is essential to strengthening creativity among your employees. By stepping back and putting more power and control into your employees’ hands, you encourage them to think creatively and independently. Whereas other leadership styles require employees to follow specific guidelines, delegative leadership highlights each employee’s unique skills and demonstrates innovation.

Delegative leadership requires fast decision-making on behalf of each employee. While this can be stressful at first, as you and your employees begin to adapt, you will find that decision-making becomes easier as employees are encouraged to exercise their creativity at all times. If your organization lacks innovative ideas, stepping back and delegating tasks to your team members can encourage newfound creativity.

Delegative leadership encourages employee growth

Along with boosting employee creativity and innovation, delegative leadership promotes individual employee growth. By delegating tasks to your employees, you encourage them to take responsibility and accountability for their work and become more involved in your business.

Delegative leadership encourages employees to be confident in their abilities and recognize their unique contributions to the company. Employees under a delegative leader learn to trust themselves and understand the value of their work.

With this leadership style, employees will identify their strengths and weaknesses and can craft an effective strategy to improve in areas lacking. Instilling confidence in employees is crucial for any organization to succeed, and delegative leadership is a fantastic way to nudge employees toward recognizing their capabilities.

Delegative leadership strengthens employee satisfaction

When a leader successfully implements a delegative leadership style, the organization can improve immensely regarding employee satisfaction. Giving employees the power to recognize their talents will make them feel more valued by your organization and boost their overall performance and satisfaction with your company.

Delegative leadership emphasizes the individuality of each employee while still encouraging teamwork and allowing individual employees to bring their unique contributions to the table. By encouraging employees to recognize their skills and giving them the freedom to conduct tasks based on their judgment, your team will be comfortable with their work and satisfied with their position in the company.

4. How can you become a delegative leader?

You can begin taking steps toward implementing a delegative leadership style in your organization and encouraging employees to take more responsibility. However, because of the hands-off nature of delegative leadership and because many people are unfamiliar with working with this style, it’s essential to understand how to become a delegative leader and succeed.

Though you might step back once your employees start working, thorough training and guidance are necessary at the start of a project. Without giving employees any information, delegative leadership will not be successful when executed.

Additionally, set strict deadlines for each employee and individual tasks. A laissez-faire leadership style will fail if you don’t state your expectations, and perhaps the most important expectation of communicating to your employees is deadlines. Without a timeline for their work, employees will feel comfortable postponing their tasks and neglecting work because you aren’t watching over them.

Delegative leadership requires you to trust your employees and establishing a foundation of trust before thoroughly implementing this style is crucial. Finally, delegative leaders must know when to intervene. No matter how skilled your employees are, there is always a chance for something to go wrong, especially as everyone adapts to this style. Take charge if something seems off, an incomplete project, or worsened employee performance.

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