Niccolo Machiavelli and Leadership
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)
Italian philosopher (pictured right) from Florence.
From his book, The Prince came the term Machiavellian (see point 2).
He opposed the ruling tyrants of Florence, the Medici family, and was imprisoned, tortured
and sent into exile.
His most famous book is...
The Prince (1532)
What did he say about leadership?
1. Be cruel to be kind
To keep order and unity, you may have to be:
“It is far better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both”, he said.
But always make sure you’re not hated for incompetence (e.g. inconsistency and
2. The ends justify the means (now called
A leader should preferably do good but may have “to act treacherously, ruthlessly, or inhumanely” to achieve
what he wants.
Normally a leader will do things that are neither “entirely good nor entirely
Only attack an evil, if you have the power to defeat it. If you don’t, ignore it, because it
3. The importance of how people see you
A good leader doesn’t need all the qualities of leadership but must appear to have
It is sometimes better to seem good than to be good. So deceit is
The best leader has the people’s support by:
4. Getting to the top is easier than staying there
Being a good leader is much more difficult than becoming one.
Opposition will come from:
5. Make change attractive
Change is difficult for people to accept.
So, when leaders do change anything, they must make it:
Leaders should anticipate their future problems, so that they can find help and make plans
to solve them.
Encouraging people to change is much better than forcing them to do
6. Tough humility
Leaders should be prepared to:
But such humility mustn’t turn into cowardice in the face of any
7. Be decisive
Leaders should make decisions as quickly as possible with the:
Dictatorship may be necessary in times of emergency.
8. Pick good people
Instead pick wise advisers who:
Leaders should listen to and question what they say before making a final decision.
9. Seek the good of everyone
Leaders should not do things for themselves but for their people, particularly giving them:
So these are vital:
Learn from your own and other people’s past successes and
failures i.e. learn from history.
11. Beat your enemies
But, if you have to fight them, make your battles “short and big”, striking
quickly with the will and resources to win.
Key quotes on
It is far better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.
A prince should not deviate from what is good, if that is possible, but he should know how to do evil, if that
A leader ought to inspire fear in such a way, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred.
A leader never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.
It is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated but it is very necessary to
appear to have them
Key quote on
The one who adapts his policy to the times prospers.
Key quote on interviewing and
The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.
Key quote on
Benefits should be conferred gradually, and in that way they will taste better.
Key quote on decision
Prudence is not in avoiding danger...but calculating risk and acting decisively.
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No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.
Key quote on influencing
Men are so simple...that the deceiver will always find someone ready to be deceived.
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