Machiavelli Leadership

If you are thinking about leading this tribe and pursuing the idea of a united Britain, you are going to have to show off your leadership qualities.

You have helped secure a castle, and you have learnt about food, fire and building walls, you have even got a stash of old weaponry inside the castle, so far so good!


The question is what next?

How do you expand, and bring the people of this disunited Kingdom together?

Well, you could do worse and pick up a copy of ‘The Prince’ by Machiavelli and begin following some of the simple guidelines that he has put forward. The book was produced in the late 15th Century and I know of a large body of people in leadership positions that have followed this book or are created through the ideas of this book. Some are fantasy, and some you might wish were fantasy including, and try not to hold onto feelings of historic annoyance with these characters, William the Conqueror, Tony Blair, Frank Underwood, Lord Varys, Richard Nixon, Lord Baelish, Nigel Farage, The Emperor from Star Wars, Donald Trump, Tony Soprano, George Osborn to name a few. We might have different feelings about these characters and their influence on their political domain.

Yet the question we ask is:

What has been learnt from them that got them to gain or remain in power?


Should we be appalled their actions or by how they have achieved their goals?

Should we think that leaders are bad?

Their goal seems to be to defend their state, to improve it and bring honour. Yet we feel that they are powerful figures and that these figures are immensely popular in their own niche. Yet are they striving for the greater good or are they being selfish in their aims of achieving power?

I did hear an excellent description of power recently, which is related to finding a suitable partner. You want a partner who is responsible and powerful but power not in the sense of a corrupt power, where they are trying to find control over others, that could be defined as a corruption of power. Power in this sense is more akin to competence.

The question of how best to achieve that is a hard one. We all hope that being nice is a virtue that we will aspire to.

Yet, does nice allow us to be effective?

Is being nice a way to protect from internal and external threats to create stability?

This means you must know how to fight, to encourage your reputation, and the management of those around. If you look at someone like William the Conqueror, the man that, conquered the country, built the Tower of London, and got the Doomsday book started. It would seem that he was a high achieving leader, yet to do this, he had to kill, destroy, burn and brutalise the population he was ruling.

There is a need for balance with many leaders. They cannot be so soft that people disobey nor can they be so cruel that people are disgusted by them. They need to be strict but approachable and reasonable, and this is a tight rope walk.

Machiavelli approaches this tight rope walk, and asks is it better to loved or feared?

According to Machiavelli, a leader should choose fear as this ultimately keeps people in check.

Yet this goes against what most cultures want, require and or expect from their leaders. The Christian Church has always preached about being merciful, tolerant, generous, and therefore the ultimate goal is for a leader in their eyes to be like be a good Christian.

Yet a test for this was done, by a Dominican Friar, 1494, his name was Girolamo Savonarola and he had the unique opportunity of being placed in charge of the city of Florence and his aim was to create a city of god on earth, to clear out the excesses of tyranny. He was successful, in getting rid of corruption, and creating democracy. However, the Pope disagreed with this, requested him to come to Rome, when he refused, he stopped him from preaching. When the Friar began preaching again Pope Alexander, had him captured and tortured. Machiavelli suggested that this happens to the nice guys, in part because they are not prepared to arm themselves and do the things that others are willing to do.


Machiavelli instead points to Cesare Borgia as a perfect example of his values. Borgia came to be in control of Romagna, and when gaining power, he had one of his henchmen Remirro de Orco brutalise the local population, which included beheading people in front of their families, seizing property and any traitors were castrated. Borgia then killed de Orco, by having him sawn in half in public. The aim to be that it showed de Orco was the evil and Borgia had defeated him for the greater public good, even though Borgia had organised the whole thing. After this bloodshed, Borgia set about reorganising the taxes, bringing in cheap grain, building a theatre, organised festivals and he even hired Leonardo Da Vinci to develop parts of the city. Bloody actions and then some nice activities.

As Machiavelli described ‘criminal virtue’, to be cruel in the name of the state.

There are things to take from this:

Is fear or love the more powerful force for you to become a leader?

Would you like to be Tony Soprano or Caroline Lucas?

We can not be good at everything, which means there will be difficult decisions that might require practical effectiveness that break morals. Hopefully, this will not happen to you.

If you enjoyed this, have a look at the last Italy blog link:

Smooth sailing makes a poor sailor in Catania

Or go all the way to the beginning of the journey.

The Journey Begins in Sicily


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