As we proceed through the prince, let us venture to analyze Machiavelli through the eye glass of current and past context, process and style.
Machiavelli faced with the unique context of territorial control of the princes distills some leadership truths the fit well in today’s leadership contexts. Fundamentally, control of the republics and principalities were gained by force or hereditary of specific princes. The prince describes the acquisition of such kingdoms as gained by fortunes or by ability. Fortune is defined as a time when a circumstance if favorable is exploited for one’s own ends. Ability is defined as physical and mental capacity; personal qualities needed to obtain one’s goals. Machiavelli writes, without opportunity, their abilities would have wasted, and without their abilities, the opportunity would have arisen in vain (p.30).
The context called for bloody battles, lives sacrificed, and new borders drawn. In today’s context because the rapid change has dulled the senses of our society, leadership must be fluid. Warren Bennis in his book on becoming a leader, states that America has lost its edge because America has lost its way (p.11). Rather than building a nation built for the good of its citizenry many leaders are bent on building a fortune for their personal good. The idea of public virtue has been overtaken by special interests (p.12). Conversely, the prince with concern for his leader and love for country, calculates the immense battle grounds, advises his master for the good of the people, and strategizes the next move in his quest to make his country better. If one measured the modern context against Machiavelli’s, the researcher would find it difficult to detect which society, the 16th or 21st, is the most barbaric.
Today’s workforce is bombarded with the pictures of leaders who care not for the common good. Enron, Adelphia, and Qwest stand as examples of the corruption plaguing our nation. It must not be seen as strange that many have lost trust in leadership. The context today cries out for leaders who can re-establish a new order of trust; if they dare. Machiavelli warns,
It must be realized that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more uncertain of success, or more dangerous to manage than the establishment of a new order of government; for he who introduces it makes enemies of all those who derived advantage form the old order ( p.31).
The wise leader must learn to navigate the rivers of today’s context much in the same manner the prince tries to teach us his path down the political stream.
The Leadership Process
In the book, the art and science of leadership, the writer describes leadership as a process (Bratton, 2004, p.13). Fundamentally, the process is the relationship between the leader, follower and the context (Bratton, 2004). Machiavelli’s leadership process is seen in the relationship of the princes, subjects, and principalities. Machiavelli trying to gain favor implores the Magnificent Lorenzo De’ Medici to take head to his leadership strategies.
How one leads is determined by how one handles the process. The different perspectives found in Chapter 1 of the art and science of leadership speaks to the value of being one who can adjust perspective based on the goals, and people involved. Gardner states correctly, when he says the first step is not action, the first step understanding (Gardner, 1993, p. xviii). Machiavelli brings to light his understanding of the process needed to be an effective prince/leader. For example, he advises the prince when and how to impose harsh treatment and when to give favors. Machiavelli writes that princes should delegate unpopular duties to others while dispensing all favors directly themselves (p.73). He also states that in seizing a state one ought to consider all the injuries he will inflict and then proceed to inflict them (p.42). Gardner (1993) defines leadership as the process of persuasion or example by which an individual induces a group to pursue objectives held by the leader (p.1).
Machiavelli, N., & Wootton, D. (1995). The prince. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co