From Smart to Wise: A book review by Bob Morris

From Smart to WiseFrom Smart to Wise: Acting and Leading with Wisdom
Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou
Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint (2013)

How to see the world “as it really is, without perceptual filters that manipulate motivation, decisions, and behavior”

Throughout human history, the greatest leaders have been both smart and wise. According to Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou, business leaders tend to see reality through filters that, “for ease of identification,” are in either the red zone or the blue zone. “To actually see the world as it is, not as we are used to seeing it, we first need to become aware of and then set aside our perceptual filters.” That is very, very difficult. As I read the discussion of the two zones throughout the narrative, they remind me of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” in which shadows dancing on a wall are perceived by those in the cave to be realities rather than distorted fragmentations of them.

Kaipa and Radjou identify and discuss six capabilities that twenty-first century business leaders can use to cultivate wise leadership. The challenge is to evolve from a smart leader (in a blue or red zone) to a wise leader (in what I guess could be called a “green” zone in which the best of blue and of red are combined. Those who complete this process have discovered their noble purpose, acted authentically and appropriately, learned when to lead and when to let others lead, make decisions with discernment, know when (as the Gambler does) “”when to hold `em and when to fold `em,” and cultivates enlightened self-interest.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to suggest the scope of Kaipa and Navi Radjou’s coverage:

o Red Zone and Blue Zone: Defining Characteristics and Limitations (Page 6-9 and 118-119)
o The Six Leadership Capabilities (14-16)
o The Path of Wise Leadership (18-20 and 24-27)
o The Wise Leader’s Perspective, and, A Mindful Mind-Set (36-37 and 50-52)
o How Wise Leaders Act (71-77)
o Bridging the Integrity Gap (77-81)
o How Wise Leaders Demonstrate Role Clarity, and, Role Clarity and Becoming a Wise Leader (95-101)
o The Neurobiology and Psychology of Making Decisions (115-124)
o Wise Leaders Display Flexible Fortitude (145-149)
o Smart Leaders and Self-Interest, and, Wise Leaders Are Driven to Help Others (158-164)
o Cultivating Leadership Wisdom Across Social Systems (183-203)
o Wise Leadership in a Complex World (203-205)

Readers will also find what these “Self-Assessments” reveal to be of incalculable value:

o “From Smart to Wise Leadership” (20-24)
o “Finding Your North Star” (46-47)
o “Red Zone” (comparison contrast with blue on 6, 58)
o “Blue Zone (58-59)
o Determining the purpose and meaning of your initiatives (173-175)

Kaipa and Radjou identify several wise leaders in the contemporary business world, including Warren Buffett, Narayana Murphy, Ratan Tata, and Oprah Winfrey, who what “found ways to apply practical wisdom in their businesses and made their companies highly successful.” However, with all due respect to them and other celebrated men and women, Kaipa and Radjou are convinced, as am I, that in almost any organization (whatever its size and nature may be), there are leaders and high-potential prospects for leadership who can also master the six capabilities during a rigorous process of personal growth as well as professional development.

In my view, this book poses two separate but related, indeed interdependent challenges: To become a wise leader and, meanwhile, do everything possible to help others to do so, “to find their authentic selves, creating a [community] of wise leadership to help unleash collective wisdom for the greater good.” I congratulate Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou on a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

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