Matthieu Ricard: “Leaders need wisdom to serve the public good”​

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Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou’s book, From Smart to Wise: Acting and Leading with Wisdom, is more than welcome. It is high time indeed that the leaders of this world, those in business as well as those in politics, are inspired more by wisdom, ethics and the pursuit of the common good.

Intelligence is a very powerful tool. But it can just as well be used to build as to destroy, to do good as well as to harm. We all use intelligence to understand, imagine, calculate, predict and make decisions. But it is the motivation that drives it that will make intelligence a vehicle for the achievement of the common good or a formidable instrument for promoting the most selfish, venal and destructive interests that one can imagine.

Our motivations animate and color all our thoughts and actions. It is they that determine the direction of the journey we undertake, the ethical quality of the sphere in which our activities take place, and the impact of our decisions and actions on those around us.

Clearly, ideally, the best thing we can do is to simultaneously do good for others and for ourselves. The pursuit of a purely selfish success is doomed to failure. Even if it may experience some ephemeral success, it will ultimately fail because it does not take into account the fact that we are fundamentally interdependent: our prosperity, our well-being and our fulfillment can only be achieved with others, through others.

We know the importance of competition, both in the business world and in the evolution of species. But recent developments in the theory of evolution clearly show that cooperation has played a vital role in generating levels of increasing complexity during the evolution of species. As evolutionist and mathematician Martin Nowak reminds us, cooperation has not only been the main architect of four billion years of evolution, but it is the best hope for the future of humanity and will allow us to raise the serious challenges that lie ahead (reference: Nowak, M., & Highfield, R. (2011), SuperCooperators.p. 271–2 and 280).

Why wisdom? As emphasized by Pradad Kaipa and Navi Radjou, wisdom gives intelligence meaning, depth and an ethical dimension. It is in the sphere of wisdom that intelligence must evolve. Wisdom makes it possible to consider a situation from all angles. It provides us with discernment enlightened by ethics, benevolence, and by the other fundamental qualities that make us decent and responsible human beings.

When we make a decision it is essential to ask ourselves what are the short and long term benefits and harms of what we are going to do. Will my actions affect a small or large number of people? Only wisdom allows us to take into consideration the common good.

Wisdom is therefore an intelligence imbued with kindness, greatness of mind, and consideration of the repercussions of our actions, short and long term, on ourselves and on others. Wisdom also implies an alignment with reality and the realization that we are all fundamentally interdependent.

Wisdom implies a certain form of detachment. Make no mistake. Detachment, in this case, does not mean that we are disinterested in the goals we are pursuing. It is proof that we are not prisoners of the greedy and exclusive pursuit of our selfish interests. Freed from the nets of attachment, we are able to cultivate a peaceful, free and lucid mind.

In the end, leadership is a service. A leader must be at the service of the goals of the company he animates, at the service of all those who work in it, and at the service of society in general. Any business that harms society and the environment that shelters us, human beings and the eight million species that are our fellow citizens in this world, does not deserve to thrive on the surface of our planet.

Many studies have shown that the best places to live and work are the ones that thrive the best. But isn’t a company where it feels good to work one that promotes good quality human relations, which allows everyone to express their creativity and realize their full potential, and which pursues goals that benefit everyone ?

Other studies have shown that the leaders most admired by their peers and their employees are those who combine two main qualities: a long-term vision and a certain form of humility. This humility is not that of someone who lacks self-confidence and acts as a doormat. It is the humility of a wise leader who understands that his mission is to serve others, and not to dominate with arrogance while filling his bank account without the slightest scruple.

By imparting wisdom, ethics and altruism to all those who have leadership responsibility in our society, Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou are doing us a great service. Their illumination allows us to work together for a better world.

This foreword was written by Matthieu Ricard for the French edition of the book by Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou, Giving Meaning to Intelligence: How Enlightened Leaders Reconcile Business and Wisdom, published by Diateino. The English edition of this book is From Smart To Wise: Acting and Leading with Wisdom.

Cover of the book From Smart To Wise by Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou
Cover of the book From Smart To Wise by Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou

“A book that is more than welcome: it is high time that the leaders of this world are inspired more by wisdom, ethics, and the pursuit of the common good, rather than by a blind intelligence driven by ambition, greed and narrow-mindedness.” Matthieu Ricard, author of Altruism.

Written by

Indian-French-American Scholar in Frugal Innovation + Wise Leadership. TED Speaker. Author of Conscious Society (2021). Visit:

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