Those who lead must understand that every move made should be calculated, scrutinized, and evaluated. Machiavelli dissects his political landscape in order to inform his leader. The unexpected result is the wealth of leadership knowledge gifted to future generations. Many reviews testify to Machiavelli’s impact. Some say he was merely trying to regain his lost and once powerful position. Regardless of his apparent biases, The Prince has been called a manual on power politics; a guide for present and future political figures. Others give little credence to the books substance because of Machiavelli’s reputation. His assessments on leadership should not be blurred by the seemingly unethical methods mentioned throughout his book. His reasons, good or bad, for writing The Prince cannot erase the value of his opinion nor his immense intellect. Even though one may try to kill the message by killing the messenger, in this case, the message stands alone and gives rise to countless leadership principles that have stood the test of time.
The Apparent Biases of the Author
When reading The Prince, one must keep in mind that Machiavelli is addressing the Magnificent Lorenzo De’ Medici. As would any ambitious person, Machiavelli is trying to impress his listener. He could rightly be accused of manipulating his opinions to gain favor. Ambition has caused many men and women to skew the truth. However, another bias he has serves as a capable counter balance. He writes, having long examined and reflected upon these matters with great diligence... ...I send it to Your Highness (p.15).
His counter balance was his love of country. Machiavelli writes I love my country more than my soul (p.6). He made many choices based on what would be best for his country. Both biases no doubt convoluted some facts with emotion. However, time has proven many of his ideas. His principles have withstood countless tests. The concepts in The Prince are closer to truth than one might have thought when the book was first written. If he was biased, it appears that his biases were more helpful than harmful gearing his vision with proper perspective.
What Others Say
Machiavelli could have never thought that this plea to be brought back into the game by the Medici lords would stir generations. Many reviews claim Machiavelli was brutal, or evil. However, the political gamesmanship of his day mitigates his brutality. Paul Rose in his contemporary review said,
"It is a rather disparate series of essays applying the cool analysis of Machiavelli, who tried to tell it as it was, to more recent events. It is the candor of Machiavelli and not Machiavelli himself, which has shocked generations into using the adjective in a pejorative way (1994)."
Andy Duncan (2004) exclaims that if one is to read a book, The Prince should come ahead of all others. He writes, "Its tenets became the substrate in which all of our own subsequent politicians have been swimming ever since, with its mixture of candor, violence, treachery, and skullduggery."
Any reader with a political or leadership inclination will quickly see comparisons to corporate board rooms, military barracks, and police precincts. Duncan continues,
"For anyone who has ever struggled to understand the power and tenacity of the modern state and the overwhelming force the modern state's politicians have over our lives, despite their legion shortcomings, numerous failures, and outright incompetence, everything becomes clear."
Mr. Duncan made a few very intriguing modern day comparisons. One attention grabber was Machiavelli’s belief in the sanctity of arms. Duncan equates Machiavelli’s stance with that of the National Rifle Association. There is simply no comparison between a man who is armed and one who is not. It is unreasonable to expect that an armed man should obey one who is unarmed, or that an unarmed man should remain safe and secure when his servants are armed. Generations have read and reviewed The Prince. Some hate it, others love it. One thing that is certain Nicolo Machiavelli’s The Prince stirs the emotions of the reader.
Machiavelli, N., & Wootton, D. (1995). The prince. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co