Top 5 Ways it Benefits Remote Work


According to Harvard Business Review, modern leaders need to embrace three key roles. The first is that of an architect who builds a positive organizational culture and fosters trust. The second role is that of a bridger who works with talent within and outside the organization to bridge any gaps or issues faced by the organization. Lastly, leaders should work as catalysts by inspiring people and driving innovation. The free-rein leadership approach encompasses these three roles in a remote setup. Let’s understand how it empowers employees in today’s context.

This blog discusses the following topics:

  1. What is Free-Rein Leadership?
  2. Features of Free-Rein Leadership That Make it Ideal for Remote Work Ecosystems
    1. Improves Cognitive Appraisal
    2. No Micromanagement
    3. Allows Creative Freedom
    4. Motivates and Inspires Followers
    5. Promotes Employee Well-Being
  3. Frequently Asked Questions About Free-Rein Leadership

What is Free-Rein Leadership?

Laissez-faire leadership, also called free-rein leadership, is a passive or non-intervention leadership style where the leader provides autonomy to their team members. The leader trusts their team members and allows them the freedom to make decisions.

In free-rein leadership, the key role of a leader is to inspire and motivate their team to achieve the organization’s goals. You can also call it autonomous leadership or self-directed leadership. The leader here is reluctant to be actively involved. They disassociate themselves from the action and give free-rein to their subordinates. In fact, followers have the same decision-making power as the leader. Hence, we can safely say that free-rein leadership is an empowering leadership style.

Laissez-faire is a French word that means ‘leave alone’. Also referred to as hands-off leadership, the leader exercises little to no control and lets the employees work on their own.

ALSO READ: 8 Types of Leadership Styles and How to Choose Yours

Features of Free-Rein Leadership That Make it Ideal for Remote Work Ecosystems

The free-rein leadership style gained due prominence in India during the COVID-19 pandemic, with numerous companies opting for a Work-From-Home (WFH) setup. The following are the five key features of free-rein leadership that empower employees in a remote working system.

1. Improves Cognitive Appraisal

The stress theory by Lazarus and Folkman suggests that cognitive appraisal (people’s ability to cope with stress) depends on how their environmental activities threaten or facilitate their personal goals.

Free-rein leadership is considered a non-workplace stressor because the leader does not interfere in the activities and roles of employees. Employees set personal goals, find ideas, and come up with solutions, all by themselves.

In a remote working ecosystem where there are multiple challenges, this free-rein leadership style improves one’s ability to successfully tackle challenges and improve work performance.

2. No Micromanagement

Lack of a leader’s trust is one of the biggest challenges for remote workers, which leads to micromanagement. In fact, 68% of remote workers in India felt micromanaged when WFH was enforced, which was higher than the global average of 48%. Such micromanagement may cause work fatigue or burnout.

Since free-rein leadership is an autonomous leadership or self-directed leadership style that relies on the non-interference of leaders, the chances of micromanagement are extremely low. Hence, it results in job satisfaction among employees.

ALSO READ: The Golden Rule to Become a Leader

3. Allows Creative Freedom

Free-rein leadership is an empowering leadership style that gives liberty to the employees to choose their tasks and make decisions freely. This promotes creative freedom and drives innovation.

In a remote setup where people have flexible work schedules, the leaders may not always be available to offer guidance. Laissez-faire leadership encourages team members to figure out solutions on their own and take accountability for their work. This nurtures creativity in a remote working environment and boosts innovation.

4. Motivates and Inspires Followers

According to the India Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022, 71% of Indian employees said that they worry about being overlooked for career advancement. Furthermore, the survey reveals that employees emphasized equally on financial reward and personal fulfillment.

In such cases, free-rein leadership can be beneficial because it allows employees to make decisions independently. This motivates and inspires employees to achieve their professional goals.

5. Promotes Employee Well-Being

According to a 2022 McKinsey Employee Mental Health report, four out of 10 Indian employees experience burnout symptoms due to toxic work behavior. In fact, toxic work behavior accounts for 90% of the intent to resign. 41% of Indian employees face well-being issues because they are unable to separate their personal and professional lives. Hence, leaders must ensure the mental well-being of their employees to retain skilled talent.

Free-rein leadership is beneficial in hiring and retaining skilled talent in a remote working ecosystem as it promotes the well-being of employees by giving them the autonomy to work, and it builds a culture of trust and open communication.

Frequently Asked Questions on Free-Rein Leadership

1. How Can Leaders Effectively Employ Free-Rein Leadership Principles in a Remote Team?

Leaders can successfully implement these leadership principles in a remote setup by building a team of skilled and self-motivated professionals. Moreover, leaders must also provide the necessary tools and resources to increase task efficiency. Establishing clear boundaries for work expectations and deadlines while conducting regular work performance assessments is equally advantageous.

2. What Challenges May Leaders Face When Implementing Free-Rein Leadership in Remote Work?

People consider this type of leadership an ineffective leadership style, primarily because the leader needs to avoid interference, which can lead to miscommunication and employee isolation. Other major challenges that leaders face in a free-rein or hands-off leadership, especially in a remote working environment, are lack of communication and lack of accountability by team members.

3. How Does Free-Rein Leadership Foster Trust and Empowerment in Remote Teams?

This kind of leadership enables open communication, offers regular feedback, and acknowledges good performance. This fosters a culture of trust and empowerment in remote teams. Moreover, leaders should be result-oriented and not process-oriented.

ALSO READ: How to Practice Well-Being Leadership

To conclude, free-rein leadership is a hands-off leadership style that allows employees to innovate without interference. However, laissez-faire leaders must strike a balance between granting autonomy and providing supervision. This ensures that employees can effectively pursue both organizational and individual goals. Nevertheless, this becomes difficult in a remote work ecosystem because of a lack of communication.

Therefore, leaders should modify their self-directed leadership style as per the situation. Emeritus’ online courses offer practical leadership training that helps professionals become successful leaders in a rapidly transforming landscape. Check out Emeritus’ online leadership courses today and upskill for a better future.

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About the Author

Senior Content Contributor, Emeritus Blog
Iha is the grammar guru turned content wizard who’s mastered the delicate dance of correcting bad grammar and teaching people how to correctly pronounce her name. With a filmmaker’s flair for marketing and digital media, she’s the project ninja, flawlessly coordinating remote and in-person teams for 6+ years. When not conjuring captivating copy, she’s delightfully torn between diving into 5 books or diving into endless series—decisions, decisions. Beware of her mischievous dog, who is always ready for a great escape!

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