The Space

radical or humble... or both?

Mar 24, 2024

(Picture of skateboarding which I believe is both radical and humbling... Take a look at Aunty Skates!)

The word radical is everywhere these days... and whilst it is motivating and directional, I also find the concept of being 'radical' can be quite energy zapping. Let me explain... 

Earlier this week on Linkedin I saw Amy Edmondson (of psychological safety fame) post about a leadership book which she has framed as her favorite book on leadership this year... 'Radical Humility: Be a badass leader and a good human' by Urs Koenig, a former United Nations peacekeeper. I was curious enough to explore further and noticed a post by my friend Tanya Cruz Teller stating she is 'practicing bracketing the overuse of radical and the glorification of badass to seek the wisdom that is clearly past the book cover.'

I agree with the idea about exploring what the idea of being radical actually does to us, and how the desire to be a badass can result in a tunnel vision that blocks out things that nourish and serve. 

 The etymology of the word radical is to do with the root of something: 'originating in the root or ground' and 'vital to life' (Etymology online).  Today, the word radical suggests something about 'great or extreme social change' (Cambridge dictionary online).

I did a google search for 'is being radical hard work' and came across a post by Joshua P Hill who writes 'Angela Davis says, “Radical simply means grasping things at the root.” I find this definition so helpful because it guides us both to the meaning of the word, and towards how we should implement our understanding of the word.' I agree with this... it is all about how we use the word. 

This then leads me to the five shifts Koenig describes in his book:

» 1. Dig Deep—from blind spots (THEN) to self-awareness (NOW)

» 2. Tough on Results, Tender on People—from heavy-handed (THEN) to high-touch, high standards (NOW)

» 3. Lead Like a Compass—from micromanaging (THEN) to empowerment (NOW)

» 4. Full Transparency—from secrecy (THEN) to open doors (NOW)

» 5. Champion a Fearless Culture—from afraid to speak up (THEN) to fearless (NOW)

These all sit well with me and I certainly would support the move from the 'then' items listed to the 'now' items of self awareness, high-touch high standards, empowerment, open doors, and fearlessness. Yet, it all needs to be done in integrity.

For leaders to move from any of the then positions to the now ones requires time, support, and dedication... and a level of humbleness that they might not have previously experienced. I know... I've been there... 

In my mid 30's when I was an assistant director in local government I had some blindspots and when I was under pressure I would micromanage. As you can imagine this didn't always result in the outcomes I sought! It was through coaching and personal and professional leadership development that I was able to understand the impact of how I was showing up and change that. It was that ability to learn and change that enabled me to then move to becoming one of the youngest directors in local government at the time, responsible for a team of 50 and a budget of £500m. 

Perhaps I want to say that radical change requires radical self awareness... with the definition of radical here being related to 'at the root.' 

I had to really dig deep to understand who I was as a person in order to make that change, and every time I now want to shift something I go back to asking myself who am I and what do I want to do and how do I want to be. These questions are great to explore the idea of being radical, humble, in integrity... being the human you want to be. 

Maybe take a moment to ask yourself:

— who am I?

— what do I want to do?

— how do I want to be?

I also wonder what would happen if we shift the idea from being radical to being humble... Maybe the word humble has a bad rap because of its etymology: "submissive, respectful, lowly in manner, modest, not self-asserting, obedient" (Etymology online).  

In my opinion, being humble is more than that, it is about having the self-esteem and confidence to know that you are doing well and not needing to shout from the rooftops about it. Research shows that being humble enables us to have more compassion and empathy towards others. Interesting, right?

So I leave you this week to reflect: being radical? being humble? being both? how? 

Have a great week! 

All my best,



The Space

Receive 'The Space' — a complementary, curated weekly newsletter with tips, ideas, & resources for gaining clarity, confidence & space.

(no spam, I promise — 3-5 minute read)