Centuries ago, Machiavelli dictated theories for what he felt a good leader consisted of and the traits he thought were crucial for being a strong leader. One of his most famous works is The Prince, an essay in which he details the various challenges facing a prince looking at being a King in the future and the steps such a prince ought to take to ensure he is followed and can be a good leader. Machiavelli’s words echo today in many areas of leadership for their insightfulness and truthfulness. Although the words they are written in are archaic and the examples used are outdated, not all of Machiavelli’s teachings are outmoded. Modern day CEOs, Presidents, businessmen as well as politicians find Machiavellian teachings useful and relevant in their fields, offering wisdom in the makings of a good leader. In business managing, these principles can be useful when applied with tactfulness and can offer good insight in many areas.

Love v. Fear

One of the most prominent theme of Machiavelli was his treatise on whether a leader should rule through love or fear. Machiavelli suggested that a leader could be loved by his followers or feared but not both. In commanding, he further speculated that fear was a better tool for motivating people although love provides for a more peaceful and controlled populous. Machiavelli suggested that if a leader was to rule in such a way that all his disciples loved him, he would be able to control them and that his followers would do as they were told in a peaceful and humble manner. However if the population feared the leader, then he would also be able to rule them because they would submit to his requests out of fear. Although this was the manner that Machiavelli postulated would be the more efficient way to rule over a people, he also suggested that it would be more difficult to control. People that feared their ruler would also be prone to revolution, disobedience, malice and lack of respect when the severity of the fear became too much. Because leader would not be able to utilize both love and fear together, they would need to be balanced or the leader would have to chose which method would be more efficient for the manner of his people and the actions he wished them to obey.

In modern day managing, this same concept can be utilized in the practice of being a manager to a group of employees. A manager can either be close buddies to his employees, cultivating friendships and a work environment wherein the employees “love” the manager and feel comfortable around him. Although this sounds ideal, it also makes the job of managing difficult in that it would be harder for the manager to ask his employees to perform tasks without the employees feeling as though they are being treated in an inferior manner. On the other hand, the manager could also manage his employees in a relationship of fear. The employees would not feel comfortable with their manager and might have resentment towards his position, but would be perform all tasks asked of them without question, making the job of the manager easier. The downside to a relationship based on ear is that employees might rise up in revolution (i.e. strike), questioning the managing if it seems unfair or oppressive.

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The number one priority of a manager should be to cultivate respect for his position and demand actions of his employees when asked in a prompt manner. Thus a manager needs to contemplate which type of relationship would be more beneficial in controlling his employees and which would breed a better environment for getting work done and keeping peace in the workplace.

Degree of Application

Machiavelli postulated many themes like this, explaining the positive and negative aspects of each trait of ruling and demonstrating why a compromise could not be made. Today many believe that Machiavelli’s teachings are old and outdated. Critics of his essays say that his words are aimed at royal rulers such as kings and princes and that in the modern day, these type of leadership traits are not applicable. They state that the characteristics Machiavelli stated would make for a good prince would not be the same characteristics that would make a good CEO because a CEO does not have absolute rule and tyranny.

However the principles that Machiavelli wrote about can still be applied in the modern day business. Certainly they can not be applied word for word, but the concepts are still very much relevant and can be used as guidelines for being a good leader. In the example of leading through love or fear, the idea can not be directly applied and the loyalties demanded of subjects or employees are very different. However the idea remains the same: as a leader, one has to chose between leading through adoration or leading through fear, but not both. A manager can be friends with his employees or can be their distinct leader and this is a principle that can be applied and used.

The ideas Machiavelli proposed should not be taken literally but the concepts remain good leadership principles to follow and his works should be at least read by leaders in all industries and positions of power. His ideas and concepts do not have to be applied directly, but should be taken into consideration. After all, a man whose words have lasted through the centuries and shaped many of the leaders throughout time should be taken into account for just a lowly store manager or the next global CEO.

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