One sunny day I was walking through the center streets and saw a bookstore with this book in a shop window: “Machiavelli on Modern Leadership: Why Machiavelli’s Iron Rules Are As Timely And Important Today As Five Centuries Ago” by Michael A. Ledeen. This book on leadership rules inspired me to write this post.

Leadership Rules

Machiavelli was a Great Teacher of Leadership, so I think that we should take into account some of his leadership rules.

The Prince” written by Machiavelli was the handbook of many global business and economic leaders. Some people consider the work of Machiavelli to be a guidebook for cheaters and liars, but Machiavelli only points out the social norms in our society and how to exploit them.

There is little mention of what to do with the power that the work of Machiavelli gives, nor is it encouraging anything that is not already a common part of our society; in other words it does not encourage deviant behavior.

People who complain about the influence of Machiavelli are just as confused about real life as the 30 year old EMO with messy hair, two piercing on his lip and makeup under his eyes complaining that people do not take him seriously.

If you want to prosper in a society, business and college then you need to play by its rules and Machiavelli shows you how.

Is Machiavelli’s Work Relevant Today?

Let’s just get this out of the way now–his work has not stood the test of time in the same way that Sun Tzu’s work has.

For example, do the powerful seek conflict domestically if they cannot find it abroad? And hopefully, a lot of what he says about women is out of date in the west.

1. Passion is the Best Motivator

There are two simple interpretations of passion and both apply to modern life:

  • The first type of passion comes through physical love and the urge to breed. This sort of passion can lead people to undertake large projects requiring massive amounts of endurance and may encourage others to inflict or take pain in massive amounts for the sake of a base biological urge.
  • The second kind of passion comes through a single-minded will to do one thing and do it repeatedly. Henry Ford took apart a car and put it together again numerous times because he was single mindedly passionate about his goal of creating a better car.

2. The Hard Road to the Top

Making things hard for yourself is not the best thing to do, but taking the easy route to the top is still not a great idea because it is often better to build a solid foundation for your success.

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Plus, if it was easy for you than it should be easy for the person who follows you and that leaves you in a very precarious situation.

3. Trust Your Enemies to Criticize You

This is not as true these days as many people know that to criticize you for real faults is just another way of making you better. If your enemy does not have your best interests at heart then they will not want to make your work better or easier.

Your enemies are likely to criticize you for things you have not done incorrectly, or will make up rumors about you that are not true.

Trusting your enemy to criticize you still has merit these days. The dimmer of your enemies will delight in the immediate gratification of finding fault with your work and launching criticism about it.

Sometimes there is a kernel of truth in their words and this truth may be used to help improve what you do and how you do it.

4. Allies are Those Who Prosper by Our Success

Paraphrasing a little helps to show how this tip may be used today in college and in the working world. Put yourself in the shoes of your ally and ask “What is in it for me?”

If your ally has little to gain from supporting you then ask why they do, and they hope to gain from supporting you.

It may be that the person is doing it simply to curry your favor, but they are going to be unreliable when your success requires them to work hard.

The Rules are a Passing Heat on a Block of Ice

A lot of the rules formed by Machiavelli are helpful, but they may only influence you slightly because if you follow the rules verbatim you are going to struggle to apply them in real life.

Plus, recall the section above about criticism and how the rules have changed since the time of Machiavelli and today.

Keep all of this in mind and you may cautiously use the work for Machiavelli to further your career and personal life.

What Makes Modern Leadership Rules?

If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Jessica Mills
Jessica is an experienced writer, editor and copywriter. She works as an educator in James Madison University (writing classes).
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