Radical Candour is a WMD

Radical Candour is a WMD

I read the book by Kim Scott, and my initial reaction is that it is a long story to land the idea of fearless feedback with the reader. 

The first thing to get clear here is I enjoyed the book. It was well structured, informative and provided clear, actionable insights.

I mean, who could ignore the four guiding squares across the axis that let a leader shape out how to act towards their team.

  • Radical Candour
  • Obnoxious aggression
  • Manipulative insincerity 
  • Ruinous empathy

How could you ignore such despicably chosen words that clearly point toward a carefully guided quadrant that you as the reader should gear yourself towards? Why would you be in any of the other quadrants? If you were to be, then clearly, you would be a bastard to work with.

The book paints a beautiful picture of open and courageous feedback and how successful it would be in an environment of carbon copy individuals.

Once you buy into the idea of being radical and candid with your employee, then you can guide them with that joyous gay abandon, as sung by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

You could then rush across the green pastures and start to build a promising future while working collaboratively. Sure, as you sing and dance as a team, you will listen, clarify, debate and decide on what direction you will dance off into. Will it be sunset or sunrise. You will work to persuade the more reluctant of the group to follow along with your glorious movement. Finally, you will all come together to execute your combined idea with great fanfare. Once you have achieved what you set out to do, you can sit around the campfire and talk things over and learn from the experience.

It all sounds terrific and at the core is the idea of the wonderful openness that the radical candour will bring to the team.

I am being sarcastic here. I did like the book, and I took a lot from it personally.

That’s not my problem. My problem is with the Radical Candour that is described in the book getting into the wrong hands. You know, it is ok for Western powers to have WMD, but we can’t have some unstable nations have them. That wouldn’t be a good experience for the people of that country or the neighbours. (Oh, the irony here, but I will leave that for another day)

We cant have unstable leaders getting access to harmful chemicals. Physical or in mental form.

I am trying to say that with bad leaders getting access to the permissions granted by radical candour and then putting them into practice without any checks or balances, you are asking for an oppressed society.

It just becomes aggressive leadership because they cannot take the radical candour back in return.

I have always thought that fearless feedback was a one-way street for (most) leadership communities. Most leaders prescribe the direct feedback, the shit sandwich approach and encourage the atmosphere to be one where everyone can say what they want in a constructive way. But that shit never happens. The destruction is always one way.

It is always down, never up. Up means they would have to listen and take action if they really valued their team. But generally, they don’t, and they value performance at all costs, so they can’t take the pushback.

Like my mum, a mother of twelve would say, don’t dish it if you can not take it back in return. 

But that is precisely what unskilled leaders do, and that is what is being described in the book. 

Dish it out. One way.

What’s radical about that?


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