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Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity – Kim Scott

21st April 2021
radical candor book cover


Radical Candor is about people management. The author wants to help the readers to avoid management mistakes that she made. I am interested to know the methods that she uses to be a good boss.


Kim Scott is the cofounder and CEO of Candor, Inc. She was also CEO coach at Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter, and other tech companies. She has worked in Google and Apple previously. Other than management and consulting work, she is also a writer who has penned three novels.


Radical Candor has an introduction, a How to Use this Book guide, 8 chapters, and a Getting Started guide at the end of the book. The chapters are grouped into 2 parts.

Part I is A New Management Philosophy. There are 4 chapters here. These chapters are 1) Build Radically Candid Relationships: Bringing your whole self to work, 2) Get, Give, and Encourage Guidance: Creating a culture of open communication, 3) Understand What Motivates Each Person on Your Team: Helping people take a step in the direction of their dreams, and 4) Drive Results Collaboratively: Telling people what to do doesn’t work.

Part II is Tools & Techniques. The 4 chapters here are 5) Relationships: An approach to establishing trust with your direct reports, 6) Guidance: Ideas for getting/giving/encouraging praise & criticism, 7) Team: Techniques for avoiding boredom and burnout, and 8) Results: Things you can do to get stuff done together-faster.


Radical candor is about caring personally and challenging directly. However, it is brutally hard to tell people when they are screwing up.

A boss’s key responsibility is to guide your team to achieve results. Other responsibilities include team and results. Emotional labor (i.e. to deal with the complaints of the employees) is the key to being a good boss. The author classifies the behaviour of bosses into four categories: radical candor, obnoxious aggressive, ruinous empathy, and manipulative insincerity.

A sense of superiority is damaging to human relationships. Trusting relationship is impossible when bosses view employees as lesser beings who can be degraded without conscience; employees view their bosses as tyrants to be toppled; and peers view one another as enemy combatants.

When you are overly worried about how people will perceive you, you are less willing to say what needs to be said. Nonetheless, giving guidance is part of the job of being a boss. Start by asking criticism, not giving it. The golden rule of giving guidance to superiors and staffs: be humble, helpful, offer guidance in person and immediately, praise in public, criticize in private, and do not personalize. Best praise can not only make people feel good, but also challenge them directly. You need to figure out how others experience your guidance to improve the effectiveness of your communication. If you cannot be radically candid, being obnoxiously aggressive is the second best as people at least know what you think and where they stand, so results can be achieved. Just say it with criticism and be specific with praise.

The first rule of building a trusting relationship that will make the employees feel free at work is to relinquish unilateral authority expected. Results are ideally set by the employee and should be as objective and as measurable as possible. The bosses also need to know each direct report well enough to understand how each one derives meaning from their work.

Most people shift between a steep growth trajectory (superstar) and a gradual growth trajectory (rock star) in different phases of their lives and careers. Other than promoting the superstars, create a culture that recognizes and rewards rock stars is the key to build a cohesive team.

Hiring is flawed and subjective, and these cannot be fixed but only managed. However, bosses need to fire people too. To fire people well, do not distance yourself from the person you are about to fire. Try to help the employee as much as possible who you are about to fire.

The essence of making an idea clear requires a deep understanding not only of the idea but also the person to whom one is explaining the idea. Remember when you know something deeply, it is hard to remember that others do not.

The essence of leadership is not getting overwhelmed by circumstances. The author shares her own experience, both good and bad, in the book. This book also contains some tools and techniques such as the Get Stuff Done (GSD) wheel which involves Listen > Clarify > Debate > Decide > Persuade > Execute > Learn > Listen. Meetings are a drag for a lot of people but the author links meetings with GSD wheel. These meetings include 1:1 meetings, staff meeting, think time, big debate meeting, big decision meeting, all-hands meeting, no-meeting time, kanban boards, and walk around. She also gives different solutions depending on the direct reports’ performance.

To build a good team, you need to have career conversations with each person on your team, create growth-management plans for each person who works for you once a year, hire the right people, fire the appropriate people, and reward the people who are doing great work but should not be promoted, and offer yourself as a partner to your direct reports.

Overall, this book offers a lot of recommendations to be a good boss. Is it easy? Definitely not. But if you want to be an inspiring boss, this book will help you. Otherwise, maybe do not fight so hard for the job that would not only be a burden for yourself, but also kill the joy for your employees. Let me end this review with this insight from the author: a team’s culture has an enormous impact on its results, and a leader’s personality has a huge impact on a team’s culture.


  1. Relationships may not scale, but culture does.
  2. Your humanity is an asset to your effectiveness, not a liability.
  3. Nobody is a bona fide asshole all the time.
  4. Life is so much better when people are great at their work and love it.
  5. Tolerating bad work is unfair to the people who are doing excellent work.


3 out of 3 stars

Interested in Radical Candor?

You may get the book from through the link below*.

Get the print book from Kinokuniya Malaysia here

*Disclosure: The above link is an affiliate link. Thus, I may earn a small commission when you purchase the book through the link.

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