Leveraging "Radical Candor" as a Leader

When growing up as a child, I am sure you were told (probably more than once) that if you do not have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.

At that time in your life, that was probably good advice. But as you grow older, you will find that the same advice doesn’t work well if you manage others. Sometimes you have to use “radical candor” when speaking to people you manage. 

The problem is that even though this is an important skill, it is very rarely taught.

That is where Kim Scott comes in. She's the CEO coach of Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter and several other companies; she's also the co-founder/author of Radical Candor. She has designed a guide to help people speak with candor while still showing they personally care.

Scott’s book, Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, is designed to be like a compass to guide individual conversations to be in a better place.

The author states there are five fundamental dynamics to be a successful team: dependability, structure and clarity, meaning, impact and psychological safety.

Radical candor happens when people provide feedback in a way that is caring while challenging them directly. Part one of this book guides you through an understanding of what radical candor is. In the second section of the book, Scott shares best practices with stories and examples to help guide you on giving feedback that is kind, clear, specific, and sincere.

The key takeaway is that you have to be willing to accept and “solicit impromptu guidance” (feedback) from others before giving "radical candor." You must embrace the discomfort. While soliciting feedback, the following will help create a psychologically safe environment to give and receive criticism:

  • Be authentic and sincere
  • Don’t ask questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no”
  • Ask specific questions rather than open-ended ones
  • Don’t solicit feedback once in a while; Request it frequently

This book was written with the leader in mind with “the hope that the stories and research would better explain why you should dish out Radical Candor!”


Scott, K. (2019). Radical candor: be a kick-ass boss without losing your humanity. Fully revised & updated edition. New York: St. Martin's Press.

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