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Machiavelli on Leadership

In delineating different requirements of leadership for different kinds of states, Niccolo Machiavelli, in The Prince, is concerned only with the maintenance of power, rather than with any ethical consideration. Whatever rationalization is made in defending Machiavelli's ideas, the fact remains that those ideas are rooted in the worship of power. Machiavelli, based on the ideas in this book, would have honored Hitler, Franklin Roosevelt, and Stalin equally, because they were able to maintain power, though in different ways. Machiavellian ideas are at work in democracies as well as in tyrannies, for Machiavelli does not simply advocate brute force as the only or primary tool of the leader, but instead argues for persuasion---including the use of any necessary lies---if persuasion works. In any case, as Machiavelli notes, if the leaders "depend on their own energies and can make use of force, then they hardly ever come to grief" (17). His ideas can be used as intellectual justification not only for the brutality of tyrannies, but for much of the corruption and deception which are today so blatantly a part of the democratic process as well.

As for the acquisition of power. Machiavelli advocates the swift ruthlessness later used by Hitler, Stalin and other brutal tyrants: "He should calculate the sum of all the injuries he will have to do, and do them all at once" (27).

Again, whatever Machiavelli's practical aim in writing this book, with respect to restoring order to his own society in his own time, and whatever the specific good his work might have accomplished at that time and place, the long-term effect of his ideas of pragmatic ruthlessness can hardly be said to be positive.

Any leader who ever chose war as a means of accomplishing political or other goals can use Machiavelli as his intellectual father: "A prince . . . should have no other object, no other thought, no other subject of study, than war. . . . This is the ...

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Machiavelli on Leadership. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 09:28, February 19, 2017, from