While the need for transparency and vulnerability in leadership is a well-worn topic in business books, Urs Koenig delivers a few fresh wrinkles in Radical Humility.
Koenig is a successful executive coach and keynote speaker who also draws insight into motivation and achievement from his impressive athletic background, including competing as an “ultracyclist” in cross-continent bike races. Most intriguingly, he’s served as a UN peacekeeper.
Wisely, Koenig begins on this dramatic note, explaining how he came to serve in missions to trouble spots like Kosovo and Lebanon. And appealingly, he emphasizes the humility involved in submitting to military discipline, rather than any macho bravado.
Throughout his book, Koenig stresses that an attitude of humility, while often considered incompatible with a leader’s necessary assertiveness and strength of character, in fact complements these traits. This translates into being “tough on results” yet “tender on people”—neither pushing workers past their limits, nor tolerating shoddiness in the name of being everyone’s friend.
Koenig observes that employees will more easily accept candid criticism from a manager they feel values them as people, and he offers tips for building strong employee-manager relationships. He also discusses owning up to one’s mistakes (taking exception with other business gurus who insist there’s no such thing as failure), actively listening more than talking, and modeling respectful behavior.
Checklists, QR codes with links to further resources, and prompts for team-building activities pepper the text and make it more useful to readers who can’t access Koenig’s coaching in person. His commonsense advice should reflect the experiences of managers and subordinates alike, without the surplus of acronyms and gimmicky phrases that clog up many business guides.
Some readers might feel that transparency and humility, while valuable up to a point, aren’t quite as essential in leadership as the author insists. However, for the self-selecting audience looking for this type of advice, Koenig’s straightforwardly written manual should prove a rewarding fount of action and ideas.