The Prince is a treatise by Niccolo Machiavelli that was penned in the 16th century on politics. Today, many people are introduced to this book by the rapper Tupac, who read The Prince in while serving a jail sentence. Tupac referred to himself as ‘Makavelli’, a play on ‘Machiavelli’ who penned the famous book. Since The Prince is considered a staple reading for anyone interested in leadership, regardless of the theory it may have been satire or written to root out monarchists and sabotage them, I think it holds a lot of interesting information that provides a look into how modern man has not changed much from his 16th century counter parts.
To the great Lorenzo Di Piero De Medici
Types of principalities - gaining them and holding them
Machiavelli, the author, provides very simple definitions of what constitutes a state, how they are acquired, and how to hold them. He provides four methods by which one can gain control over a princedom. The best method of leadership is to install a princedom in a new acquisition and to take hold of his lands by living among the people there. Machiavelli believed that taking ownership and sharing in the fate of the people would make you most likely to grab and hold your acquisition. However, you can also allow others to control your interests if you do not let them gain too much power, you can destroy all the powerful people and prevent them from regaining a foothold, or busy yourself in trying to prevent foreign powers from gaining a foothold in your lands.
The first choice, to take ownership of a situation and to demonstrate your shared responsibility is a very common leadership trait. You shouldn’t hope for a better tomorrow but instead should get in the trenches and work towards your goal in a visible manner. The idea of being visible is very important because people are less likely to understand or even identify secret works but will find pleasure in knowing what their leaders are doing.
Soldiers and war
You should take care not to rely on mercenaries. I think we see this in the hatchet men of business today. A company will go out and hire from outside sources in the hopes of improving the company but instead find only temporary and short term benefits before the company implodes. We have seen this in the American economy as we have moved to hiring foreigners to do everything from manage our medicine to control our production and financial data. Our reliance on mercenaries to manage for us is becoming the same downfall that Machiavelli warned of in the 16th century.
The qualities of princes
If we substitute the word ‘prince’ for ‘leader’ we will find that many of the items discussed in the book have parity with more modern leadership books. I wonder if the qualities of a prince are the same as that of the modern leader, or do many modern authors simply regurgitate what is provided by Machiavelli but with different veneers. We have books about Navy SEALS, Firemen, Police Officers, and Businessmen and all the things they have learned about leading others but every book I have read on leadership thus far is a redressed version of “The Prince”.
The prince’s supports
A leader should be cognizant of who speaks to them. The author urges the prince to be wary of ‘yes men’, unsolicited advice, and any one who might ask the prince to remain neutral in a conflict. I think this is sound advice. The more powerful you are, the more likely you are to be beset by others who wish to increase their station by giving you the advice you want to hear.
Machiavelli advises that the prince should consider setting a strict chain of command while rewarding those who give real and sound advice, even if that advice is contrary to the desires of the prince. Reward good advice.
A good leader must possess many qualities and no leader will possess all of them. However, the prince as a book lays a good framework for good leadership.
Take ownership and be present. On site leadership will always trump phoning it in.
Take caution in who you trust. Every one is out to get something.
Imitate the greats and emulate the best.
Good leaders will always aspire to greatness so take caution in how you choose your subordinates. A good leader will aspire. A bad one will ruin you. Either can be disastrous if you don’t pay attention.
Read and study and learn.
Practice and prepare. Leaders always war game and build contingencies for the ‘what if’. Play ‘what if’ constantly.
If you have to punish or be cruel, do it in a way that leaves no room for reprisal.
Perception matters. Don’t allow others to make assumptions, but instead show clearly your accomplishments and the accomplishments of those beneath and above you.
Don’t take the property of others. Machiavelli says men are more likely to forget the murder of their father than the loss of their inheritance.
Ignore flatterers and ‘yes men’. Don’t fall victim to your own success.
Old offenses are never forgotten. Don’t forget who you have wronged. They will be back.
Receiving benefits makes others feel connected to you. Allow others to praise and support you.
Trust the ones who stick with you even when times are bad. Reward loyalty.
I believe that ‘The Prince’ by Machiavelli is a fantastic book that should be read by anyone interested in leadership or otherwise developing their understanding of people. The lessons in the book are timeless and apply today just as they did so many years ago. The life of a Prince is not so different than the life of a leader today. You lead men, you budget, and you make life and death decisions in my industry.
I think the main takeaway from this book is that we are the masters of our own destiny and the only way to succeed is by being bold and dedicating ourselves to continuing education.
You can purchase the book on Amazon.