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Radical Candor : Creating A Culture of Kindness

Kinder leaders are better leaders, so why isn't every leader kind? Often, it's because kindness doesn't come with a how-to guide... Or does it?

Written by Laura Autumn-Cox

Radical Candor: the basics

Radical Candor (or candour, for us Brits) is a relationship-building strategy that focuses on kind, clear, specific and sincere feedback. In many ways, it is similar to A Culture of Kindness, because it sets out something of a formula for effective and considerate management. While Sunshine People aims to spread kindness throughout the entire world, A Culture of Kindness drills deeper to explain precisely how organisations can play their part, calling them to track and monitor their emotional intelligence (EQ). Similarly, Radical Candor has its foundations in 'soft' leadership skills.

Radical Candor is the brainchild of Kim Scott, a serial entrepreneur who spent time developing leadership at both Google and Apple. Whilst working within these organisations and others, Scott observed boss after boss after boss, noticing that the best bosses were those who built positive relationships with their employees. They had done this, Scott noted, through three guiding principles:

  • Make it personal

  • Get sh*t done

  • Understand why it matters.

This trinity of considerate leadership forms the basis of Radical Candor; a new management philosophy. To achieve the three principles, Radical Candor invites leaders to:

  1. Challenge Directly

  2. Care Personally.

Challenging Directly means sharing opinions honestly, so that others know where they stand. However, if you challenge too directly, you run the risk of alienating your employees and everyone around you. To build the strongest relationships, employers and managers need to Care Personally. But, at the same time, if you care too personally, you will spare peoples' feelings at the expense of their personal development.

Applying Radical Candor certainly comes with its difficulties. The philosophy recognises that it's all too easy to show 'Obnoxious Aggression' by being too direct, or falling into 'Ruinous Empathy' by caring too much.

Then, of course, there are leaders who don't even attempt to Challenge Directly or Care Personally. As a result, they demonstrate 'Manipulative Insincerity'. This also applies to leaders who pretend to be direct and caring.

Kindness: is it really so radical?

The relationship between Radical Candor and kinder leadership couldn't be more stark. Much like A Culture of Kindness, Radical Candor teaches businesses how to quantify and measure how kind they are. Both offer a much needed structure for improved employer behaviour, which then cascades down throughout the workforce into healthier and more productive teams.

Without frameworks like Radical Candor and a Culture of Kindness, the phrase 'be kind' has a hard time finding a home in corporate environments. What these emerging structures show, though, is that good leadership can be condensed into step-by-step processes with measurable outputs.

'Step-by-step processes' and 'measurable outputs' are business-speak for the underlying principles of Radical Candor itself: getting sh*t done and understanding why it matters. In today's shifting corporate environment, you can't be a successful leader if you don't attempt to demonstrate directness, honesty, and care... AKA, kindness.

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