Machiavelli’s “The Prince” is a highly unique manuscript that outlines Machiavelli’s views on effective leadership. This piece was meant to serve as a guide for what characteristics the ideal prince should possess. Machiavelli never stated who the actually “Prince” is but rather gives advice and examples on how someone would become the perfect ruler. The Prince was written in the early 1500s where “Popes were leading armies, and wealthy city-states of Italy were falling one after another into the hands of foreign power” (Wikipedia). It was a time of shifting alliances, politics, and the mentality of a larger army size would equate to a stronger country. We can observe with the drastic lives they lived, Machiavelli was partly influenced by his lifestyle. As an individual Machiavelli was naturally cynical about the human race and that profoundly influenced his work.
Machiavelli’s main ideas on effective leadership were:1)A prince should prefer being feared rather than being loved.
Machiavelli suggests it is “much safer to be feared than loved” (The Prince, 3). When you strike fear in your minions then they will become more intimidated. He mentions that men are so easily manipulated that a skillful prince can control them at will. “Men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life and children” (The Prince, 4). A prince that rules on love rather than fear wouldn’t succeed in the real world because they are ruling on promises and friendships. Promises and friendships can easily be broken but striking fear is usually permanent for an effective Prince.
2)A Prince should have mean and liberal qualities.
In chapter XVI Machiavelli implies that a prince should possess both a harsh attitude and a mindset for liberty. A prince should only allow freedom to those who earned it. A prince can lead his armies into battle pillaging and razing everything in sight while handing down items that belong to others to the men of his own, “this liberty is necessary, otherwise he would not be followed by his soldiers” (The Prince, 2). Machiavelli entails a prince should be defensive of his kingdom and armies; to avoid being hated and despised. A ruler that grants liberties without being harsh will lead to the downfall of the Prince. “Therefore it is wiser to have a reputation for meanness which brings reproach without hatred, than to be compelled through seeking a reputation for liberality” (The Prince, 2).
3)Keeping and maintaining faith.
A prince can always distinguish the men who do not act in good faith; therefore a wise prince is not bound to keep faith with them. However, it is best for a prince to possess the “qualities of mercy, faith, integrity, humanity and religion.” (e.g.: the ends justify the means). A prince must avoid the hatred of his subjects by keeping them well armed and happy, by refraining “to be a violator of the property and women of his subjects” (The Prince, 9). This way a prince can convert potential enemies into followers and keep his existing armies faithful.
Illustrating similarities between Machiavelli’s viewpoint and modern day businesses isn’t hard. A corporation has kings and queens, princes and princesses, its nobles and ambassadors and their respective armies. A corporation also has its enemies and its friends. It is also noted that Machiavelli’s guidelines also apply to mergers and acquisitions (Oldham). When comparing Machiavelli toward modern business practices we see many flaws. Is it acceptable for a company to commit treachery and fraud as a tolerable tactic to get ahead? Obviously not. Machiavelli mindset has not seen how the world would turn out. Our world has evolved so quickly that even Machiavelli couldn’t predict the future.
Its true that a manager needs to blend a combination of fear and love to effectively lead his/her subordinates. Realistically, which boss do you love the most? The boss who frequently threatened to fire you? Or the boss who treated you with respect and listened to what you have to say? Not a tough question. In today’s environment where work place equality is becoming a mainstream issue managers have to certainly “love” all their employees. However it’s true that employees may take advantage of their kind hearted personality which is why they must have some level of degree in “fear”. Managers must use their power when appropriate. It’s fairly difficult to find a balance between the two in my opinion, nearly impossible. In my opinion, Machiavelli’s theory of “fear” over “love” is flawed in the sense that it won’t work in today’s environment, managers need to balance their fear-based methods and embrace new ways of building love into the company’s organizational culture.
Managers and corporate leaders need to be liberal in the way where they can effectively empower their employees to make their own decisions. Leadership has change indefinitely where it is no longer a traditional hierarchy. A leader must learn how to discipline his/her employees where appropriate but not be selfish with their power and authority. A leader leading in cruelty will result in a high turnover rate and will lead to the downfall of the business.
Trust is often an important issue in business. The trust between businesses and customers is the definition of profits and revenue. Without trust a company would never make it off the ground. Therefore leaders of large multinational corporations need to be honest from the beginning. It is evident that Machiavelli and the modern business age have something they agree upon. Keeping and maintaining faith. Building a strong trust icon can often lead your company into positive public feedback. With that positive feedback comes more growth, more employees and in the end more customers. (The ends justify the means)In conclusion, Machiavelli was able to outline what a perfect leader would look like, by distinguishing the needed traits a leader needed to have.
A leader needed to be feared, cruel at the same time they need to keep faith. Realistically Machiavelli’s the “perfect prince” is unattainable in the modern business age. Machiavelli was a realist, he saw his world for how it was ran, and not how it would have been if it was perfect. He designed the prince to fit into this flawed world. At that time his prince would have succeeded because it was a time of frequent war. Today his prince would fail, for now we are a world governed by laws and not war.
Machiavelli, Niccolo. Part 1: Ancient to Pre-Industrial The PrinceProject Gutenberg, 08 March. 2008Oldham, Ronnie Machiavelli’s The Prince: A modern executive 16 Sept, 200009 March, 2008. http://www.pillowrock.com/ronnie/machiavelli.htmWikipedia, Online. 2006. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 08 March. 2008http://en.wikipedia.org