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10 Essentials for Dynamic Candor

Inept leaders block uncomfortable topics from the discussion. It’s pathetic. Weak, fearful leaders need agreement to confirm their leadership.

On the other hand, I recently spent time with five members of an executive team who displayed the power of candor. They brought themselves and their perspective to the discussion. In some organizations it would have been dangerous. I found it invigorating.

Weak executives say what their CEO expects them to say.


Candor used well ignites useful stress and productive conflict.

Candor enables excellence by propelling tough issues into leadership conversations. Apart from candor, organizations enjoy imagined unity based on conspiracies of silence. “I won’t tell if you won’t.”

Lack of candor is the path to mediocrity and eventual crisis.

Candor, however, isn’t an answer on its own.


The context of candor is tough issues, short-comings, failures, and the pursuit of excellence. Candor on its own creates negative, oppressive, dark environments.

10 Behaviors effective candor requires:

  1. Willingness to adapt or change. If you can’t say, “I was wrong,” candor becomes adversity.
  2. Keeping confidences. Candor ends when you publicly share private disagreements.
  3. Respect. Withholding candor is manipulative disrespect. It suggests that others believe you can’t handle or don’t want the truth.
  4. Courtesy. If anger fuels your candor, keep quiet until anger abates.
  5. Passion with emotional steadiness.
  6. Trust that others won’t use your words against you. Lack of candor expresses lack of trust. Candor creates vulnerability. Candor says, “I trust you enough to speak the hard truth.”
  7. Apologies.
  8. Taking responsibility.
  9. Staying focused on issues, outcomes, processes, and procedures.
  10. Affirmation.

Candor apart from affirmation builds negative relationships.

Bonus: Everyone rows together once decisions are made.

How have you seen candor go wrong?

What makes candor work?

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