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  • Writer's pictureSubha

Becoming The Kind Of Boss You Always Wish You Had: Radical Candour

Radical Candour

This is a post inspired by our new favourite read: “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott, a NY Times bestseller.

Kim Scott brings her vast experience building teams at Apple and Google to segment the different kinds of bosses and pin down exactly the kind of boss one should aspire to be.


The book divides management styles with respect to feedback into these four categories:

1. Obnoxious aggression

If you’ve watched the eponymous movie “Horrible Bosses,” you will have no trouble recognising this style. This is the kind of boss with whom criticism comes a dime a dozen. They will throw unreasonable challenges at employees, but without being invested in either the employee or the outcome. The bitter doses of criticism are doled out liberally without a smidge of respect or even kindness. Praise, if you even get any, does not feel like it’s coming from a genuine place. You cannot trust it.

Do note that not all obnoxious aggression is obvious. Some bosses do not realise the damage they do with snide remarks, and wonder later why no one comes to them with issues. If this is you, you’d know by how many conversations your people want to have with you on a given day.

2. Ruinous empathy

This boss does care, but is too vague in praise as well as constructive feedback for it to make a positive difference. There are no growth-oriented challenges, no building blocks, no insightful compliments. Criticism is either absent, or heavily sugar coated or leaves you feeling vaguely nice but none the wiser on how to proceed. A most ineffectual boss!

The thing about ruinous empathy is that the boss is only trying to be nice, but to the point where being nice defeats the purpose of feedback. This is probably you if you feel like your team never acts on the feedback you’ve shared, leaving you to deal with things well beyond the set timelines.

3. Manipulative Insincerity

It is really unfortunate to have this boss, who neither cares nor challenges. The praise couldn’t be more non-specific or hollow. The criticism is the worst and most fruitless type, neither constructive nor kind.

The worst thing here is that there is zero empathy for people and a 100% focus on getting things done. Unfortunately, the latter isn’t possible without the former.

4. Radical Candour

This is what everyone who wants to be a leader should aspire to. This is the best possible recipe for your team’s development; a mix of sincere, observant praise and constructive criticism that is given kindly, and with respect for you as an individual. Let’s find out more. Great leaders don’t just happen.

This is the era of dynamic workplaces and styles, and millennials, who form a large chunk of today’s workforce, are quick to feel dissatisfied and move on if the workplace drains their life force. But even millennials will love to be a part of a work culture that makes everyone feel valued, welcome, and respected. A workplace where their contribution is acknowledged, their talents are recognised and their capabilities are intelligently challenged.

According to Scott, bad management creates a “ripple effect” of negative company culture. Say you are at the top of the totem pole, but if those who report to you do not have a lot of faith in your leadership abilities, the sense of insecurity and vagueness they feel themselves will trickle down to their own teams. Needless to say, productivity and employee engagement will steadily decline in such a scenario.

Radical candour begins with you. To be the kind of leader that builds stellar, yet loyal teams, radical candour should be your management style. Then again, you yourself should have reached that stage of emotional and professional maturity to be able to deploy this high-gain method of delivering feedback, of which honesty is such a prominent ingredient.

Employees can easily spot insincerity and fake or sugar coated feedback. They will be hesitant to share ideas, and overall demonstrate a palpable lack of trust in you and your leadership style. The best way to hire and retain a team is to build a work environment they’ll thrive in and be proud to be a part of. As the leader, a whole lot pivots on you.

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