Leadership can be understood either as a pattern of behavior or as a personal quality. As a pattern of behavior, leadership is the influence applied by an individual or group over a larger body to arrange or direct its efforts towards the achievement of desired goals. As a personal attribute, a leader is enabled to exert influence over others. For many including Italian political philosopher Machiavelli, a leader should be both virtuous and sometimes unethical to reach his goals. Nicola Machiavelli (1469-1527), in his most famous book “The Prince” which was written in 1513, claimed that good leaders (Prince) should be prepared to break his promises for practical advantages should be both virtuous and sometimes vicious. In this assignment, I am going to try to summarize Machiavelli’s main ideas about being a good leader or Prince.
Machiavelli in his famous book basically tells us about five important and necessary qualities of a successful prince or leader. The first and most important characteristic of an ideal leader should be to provide his country’s security and to grasp power in his hands. Power is the most dominant aspect of Machiavelli’s theory and it should come first for a safe and united princedom. A prince should use all means to acquire and to preserve his power. Without the existence of a powerful central management, a state should never keep its existence. This is because a power-lacking state would be the target of both internal and external enemies. People of a principality should have respect, loyalty and fear towards the prince. A united society that has respect and loyalty towards their prince will always act together bravely against dangers and will support their prince’s policies. This should be based on the trust of the citizens towards their princes. Power is the first and absolute condition of security. “Since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved”. By this quotation we can understand Machiavelli’s passion of a strong, merciless leader who will create security for his country. According to Machiavelli there are two ways of challenging opposition for princes; by law or by force. In addition, he claims that since sometimes the law is not sufficient, princes could use force to tame people. In order to explain this, Machiavelli gives the example of lion and fox. “A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves. Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves”. Therefore, according to Machiavelli, if it is necessity, leaders should be both ruthless and insidious to reach their goals. Machiavelli believes that while leaders are doing ruthless actions, they have to hide their actions from the society. Moreover, he gives an example for this statement “Alexander VI did nothing else but deceive men, nor ever thought of doing otherwise, and he always found victims; for there never was a man who had greater power in asserting, or who with greater oaths would affirm a thing”.
Other important requirements of a prince are human nature, fortuna, virtu and amoralism. Machiavelli thinks that human nature is fickle, so that people cannot be relied on. A role of the prince should not be to satisfy all changing desires of his community but rather to create a strong, safe and united country. In Machiavellist approach, desires of humans are the outcome of their fickle nature and thus, could not be predicted. Another aspect of being a good ruler is related to the fortuna. According to Machiavelli fortune is the mixture of luck, divine events (fate) and our preparations for upcoming events. Although most of the people believe that their failures or satisfactions are related to fortuna (luck or destiny that is the production of God), in fact the half of the fortune is in our hands. Machiavelli makes a perfect analogy for luck conception. He compares luck with an overflowing river that will destroy all things that it will face. He accepts that the strength of the wild river will be detrimental to environment and to the people living around, but if a person is aware of the fact that river has chance to overflow in rainy, bad weather conditions, this person has chance to reduce the negative effects of the flood. The fourth characteristic of a good ruler is his necessity to have virtu. By virtu, Machiavelli means skills and virtuosity. Those are qualities, abilities like arts of war that will appear in specific conditions and help a prince to have legitimacy and fear. These abilities can be very negative for moral issues but a prince should think of the security of the state before morality. From there we can pass to the fifth condition of being a good ruler; amorality. Ignoring morality and making bad, violent things for the sake of the security of the country will be a virtu, a skill for a prince not a mistake in his way to maintain power. As we can understand from these four requirement items, what is important and virtuous for Machiavelli is to maintain power and security for the society. We should also mention that in Machiavellist perspective any citizen who knows how to collect power in his hands and creates an absolute authority could become a ruler without any specific education.
In conclusion, in Machiavelli’s view, leaders should be both virtuous and vicious. However, a leader should know how to disguise his vicious characteristics and to present his virtuous qualities in the foreground. To make people obey the rules, leaders could use laws or force. Laws are better but for Machiavelli they are not sufficient. So, a good leader should also know how and when to use force.