Radical Candor: the Secret to Successful Leadership

Transparency door opening to show a magnifying glass openness, c

I recently learned of Kim Scott’s concept of Radical Candor and found it powerful and informed.

The premise is that it is really important to genuinely care about your employees. Caring simply is not enough, and if done without candor can be damaging and problematic.

When a leader practices “Radical Candor”, they provide open and honest feedback to their team members in a caring and respectful manner. This enables team members to work to become even better as they are given specific and timely input on what they are doing well (in public) and what they need to work on (in private). It is the balance between caring and honesty that motivates people to excellence.

The second style of leadership is those who see themselves as being kind as they deeply care about their employees, however, they don’t want to hurt their feeling by sharing constructive feedback with them. This type of relationship prevents employees from improving their results and actually sabotages them and the team. She refers to this as “Ruinous Empathy” because it prevents individuals from fully realizing their potential. Also, by not addressing poor performance, other team members can become frustrated resulting in job searches.

The third categories of leaders are those who don’t genuinely care about their employees and are direct and honest without consideration of their feelings. Scott refers to this behaviour as “Obnoxious Aggression”. While these leaders provide the feedback, their employees may have a tendency to dismiss it as critical vs. helpful. Interestingly, in Scott’s opinion (and I agree with her) these are not the worst type of leaders.

The final category of leadership is that of “Manipulative Insincerity” where the leader doesn’t care about the employee, fails to give them direct and clear feedback and offers insincere positive feedback. In my experience, these leaders create a great deal of anxiety and insecurity in their employees which results in work that is a little like “throwing spaghetti against the wall” in hopes that their uninformed work is good enough. The ongoing anxiety will create lowered performance.

I invite you to engage in radical candor – take the time to truly care about each individual on your team, by getting to know them as people. Then take the next important step and be honest and direct with them so that they can excel and your results will show your efforts.

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