Thursday , February 22 2024
Two leading thinkers present a 6-part process by which today's leaders can evolve to meet 21st-century business challenges.

Book Review: From Smart to Wise by Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou

If you’re a business owner, entrepreneur, or senior-level manager, you probably identify yourself as “smart.” After all, it takes great decision-making ability and intellect to have achieved your level of professional success. 

But according to CEO advisor Prasad Kaipa and strategy consultant Navi Radjou, being smart isn’t actually what’s needed in today’s fast-moving, highly complex, globally interconnected business environment. Leaders need to be wise.They demonstrate how to learn the behaviors and develop the mindset of a wise leader in their new book, From Smart to Wise: Acting and Leading with Wisdom (Jossey-Bass, March 2013). 

Kaipa and Radjou are internationally admired thought leaders who teach, conduct original research, have written journal articles and business bestsellers, blog for Harvard Business Review, do TED talks, present before global economic forums, and have been featured in the world’s leading business and economy publications. Above all, they have worked with hundreds of top business executives, helping them master the six wise leadership capabilities featured in this book.

These two are heavyweights in the leadership development world, and their book warrants a careful read.

In brief, here are the six key capabilities of wise leaders on which they elaborate:

  1. Shifting one’s perspective in order to find your noble purpose.
  2. Acting in a way that’s both authentic to who you are and appropriate to others.
  3. Knowing when to lead, help others lead, or step aside. 
  4. Making decisions that are intuitive, ethical, and pragmatic all at once.
  5. Knowing when to hold on to or let go of a decision, depending on the situation.
  6. Cultivating enlightened self-interest to bring benefit to the greatest number of people.

Lest you consider such behaviors achievable only by an enlightened few, Kaipa and Radjou anchor all of their ideas in reality, offering dozens of fresh and fascinating real-world examples of smart leaders who became wise and achieved fantastic success as a result.

For example, Microsoft founder Bill Gates was a smart leader. But when he decided to let cooler, more competent people lead Microsoft in the wake of the Justice Department’s lawsuit against the mammoth company, relinquishing his role as Microsoft CEO, he became a wise leader. Now he works full-time with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Microsoft continues to thrive. It’s a win-win-win — for him, for the company, and for the world.

The authors also show “how” to become wiser, whether it’s from reading an inspirational book, leveraging a moment of crisis, or doing what leaders at Allianz Global Investors do. Senior managers there undergo training in total darkness, facilitated by visually impaired workshop leaders, so they have the opportunity to experience their own limitations and increase their empathy for others.

The book is filled with great stories, lessons, and anecdotes that will inspire leaders to expand the way they think and operate. Kaipa and Radjou also serve up case examples of smart leaders who faltered and got stuck because they relied too much on their “smartness” — and many of these stories may strike a painfully familiar chord

Being smart, they say, actually presents limitations for leaders. They teach readers, in effect, how to “unlearn” many of the competencies they have come to rely on in order to move to a higher plane of leadership.

From Smart to Wise includes a self-assessment that enables readers to measure their leadership effectiveness across the six key capabilities so they know where to focus self-development efforts. For each of the six leadership capabilities, there are practical question guides, exercises, and other strategies to help leaders delve into, understand, and cultivate new skills.

If smartness was the currency of success in 20th century, wisdom will be the currency of success in the 21st century. Wisdom is grounded in ethics, shared values, and in serving a larger purpose — all of which are important qualities in today’s business world. 

This thought-provoking read will generate new ideas that are bound to make you a better decision maker and a more successful, fulfilled leader.

About Patricia Gale

Patricia Gale has written and ghostwritten hundreds of blogs and articles that have appeared on sites such as Psychology Today, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and in countless national newspapers and magazines. Her "beat" is health, business, career, self-help, parenting, and relationships.

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