Effective leadership: Three types of leaders in challenging situations

Discover the three distinct types of leaders and their responses when facing challenges. By understanding these leadership approaches, we can strive to become "Accountable: Now What" leaders who take ownership and drive positive change. Explore the characteristics of each leader type and learn how to cultivate an effective leadership approach in this insightful article.

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1. The 'What' Leader: Delivering Facts without Context:

The 'What' leader is focused on relaying the facts without delving into further detail or implications. When reporting an outcome, they inform their superiors about what happened, leaving it up to them to ask for additional information. While this approach ensures that the situation is brought to attention, the 'What' leader unintentionally shifts the responsibility onto their boss, avoiding personal ownership of the matter.

2. The Informative 'So What' Leader: Adding Context and Significance:

Contrary to the 'What' leader, the Informative 'So What' leader goes beyond sharing facts. They provide context and explain the significance of the situation. This type of leader not only shares what occurred but also explores the implications of the outcome. By answering questions such as "So – what are the implications of this loss?" or "So – why should we care?", the Informative 'So What' leader adds valuable insights. However, they may still rely on their superiors to drive further action, lacking a proactive approach.

3. The Accountable 'Now What' Leader: Taking Ownership and Offering Solutions:

The Accountable 'Now What' leader takes reporting to the next level by assuming full responsibility. In addition to discussing what happened and its implications, this leader actively provides recommendations and action plans. They take the initiative to mitigate the impact of the situation. By conducting thorough investigations and ranking different approaches, they actively participate in joint action planning with their superiors. The Accountable 'Now What' leader presents their best suggestions to address the issue and drive the project forward. This type of leader is not afraid to take ownership, avoiding the tendency to leave problem-solving solely to their superiors.

Becoming an 'Accountable Now What' Leader:

To transition into an 'Accountable Now What' leader, follow these steps to develop an effective leadership approach:

1. Understanding the Situation: Gather comprehensive information and conduct a thorough analysis of the challenge at hand. Ensure you have a clear understanding of the details and implications involved.

2. Identifying Implications: Evaluate the potential consequences and understand how they may affect the company or organization. Consider the short-term and long-term implications, as well as the impact on various stakeholders.

3. Offering Recommendations: Take ownership by proposing actionable solutions and outlining the necessary steps to address the issue. Provide your insights based on your expertise and understanding of the situation.

4. Collaborating and Optimizing: Engage in a joint action planning process with your superiors, seeking their input and refining the approach for success. Emphasize teamwork and the collective effort needed to overcome challenges.

5. Driving Continuous Progress: Maintain active involvement throughout the implementation of the chosen strategy. Monitor progress, make adjustments as necessary, and ensure effective communication to keep all stakeholders informed and engaged.


Leadership is not just about reporting facts but demonstrating accountability and providing solutions. By adopting the 'Accountable Now What' leadership approach, leaders can take ownership, offer recommendations, and actively participate in planning for the future. Cultivating this proactive mindset will help leaders make a positive impact and increase their chances of success in overcoming challenges.