Machiavelli`s Qualities of a Leader/Prince
Machiavelli`sQualities of a Leader/Prince
Leadershipis a complex issue that needs a lot of prudence, humility, courage,cunningness and reason among others when dealing with one`s citizensor subjects. A leader must be both loved and hated at the same time.There will always be someone after that leadership position or evenchaos from time to time. However, a great leader knows how to balancehis or her operations, getting the faith and trust of the people,punishing according to and rewarding in an equal measure if any ofthese aspects favor his cause and motive to expand and maintain hisreign (Gujral and Gurdeep). The article looks at the qualities that aprince or a ruler, according to Machiavelli, that a ruler must havein order to remain effective in his kingdom or republic whiledetermining the most important quality that a prince must possess atall times.
Apparently,Niccolo Machiavelli is one such once a high-status leader who wrotevarious qualities that a prince, or rather a leader/ruler, must haveso as to maintain his subjects. A leader cannot always be good as hewill lose his respect, command, wealth and eventually his kingdom. Hewas born in 1469 in Florence and was banished from Florence in 1513.He thus wrote "The Prince" a doctrine meant to please theMedici, who were the restored rulers in Italy, in a bid to interestthe Medici and regain his favored high position by getting anappointment from the king. After enjoying great leadership position,losing it and getting tortured, Machiavelli understood leadership andpower and through experience and observation, was determined toadvise the Medici on the qualities that a prince must possess inorder to become a great leader and ruler (Machiavelli et al. 669).
Actually,the Machiavelli point of view on leadership make a lot of sense butin contrast to what many leaders of today would like to be associatedwith publicly, irrespective of the fact that they are forced to applyMachiavellism in their leadership styles. Many leaders think thatgenerosity fetches them popularity and people`s loyalty in theretention of their power. However, according to Machiavelli, a leadershould be generous but to a very small extent (Machiavelli et al.670). Generosity is what harms rulers as in the process they displaylavish life, spend a lot and finally run out of financial security.This results to the same leaders imposing heavy taxes on theirsubjects and stealing from them in a bid to regain their wealth. Sucha leader will eventually be hated and loathed by their subjects andthey can easily bring his downfall through conspiracy or revolt(Gujral and Gurdeep).
Itis better to be miserly, miserly in this case means avoiding beinggenerous and getting reproach for it. This is likely to help theprince retain his financial security and thus influence in the land.He will eventually be loved as he will find no cause to steal fromhis subjects, not even overburden them with taxes. As a result, manyof whom he takes nothing will love him while few whom he givesnothing will reproach him but it will not matter as one cannot beloved by all. He will thus finally retain the favor of the majorityand consolidate his power (Machiavelli et al. 671). A good example,according to Machiavelli was the then King of France who had wagedmany wars and never overburdened his subjects with taxes this isbecause he used his resources wisely and was not generous enough toplunder his wealth with a lot of giving. Generosity leads to despairand desperation and finally ruins kingdoms, while miserly defends thekingdom and asserts control over the subjects. A miserly ruler willfetch reproach from his people but not hatred, which is usually themain cause for the fall of leaders. However, generosity will onlylead to both reproach and hatred towards the leader (Machiavelli etal. 672).
Theother important quality of a prince or a leader is cruelty as opposedto too much mercy. However, a prince must be able to balance the two.Mercy fetches complacency, rebellion, and murder. A ruler who ismerciful wields no power and control over his subjects. Cruelty is aquality that leaders must learn to nurture while ensuring that thesubjects or citizens consider them merciful the misuse of mercy isthe downfall of a leader. Cruelty instills fear, and fear bringsorder, peace, and obedience that mitigating the room for chaos(Machiavelli et al. 672). Machiavelli insists that a leader must bemerciful, but he must be cruel when the necessity arises for "itis better to be feared than loved" (Machiavelli et al. 673). One cannot be cruel and merciful simultaneously, but they can useeither according to necessity. A great ruler must be cruel whileensuring that they are not hated even if they will not win the loveof the people. The only way to apply cruelty and be spared fromhatred by the people is to avoid stealing their property and theirwomen. And when a life is to be taken so as to send a message to thesubjects, it must be done so with proper justification (Gujral andGurdeep).
Amongmany other qualities, Machiavelli focuses on the quality of a princeor a ruler keeping his word or promises. It is expected that greatleaders should have their word as their bond and express the aspectof integrity, however, a great leader must not always keep theirword, especially of the circumstance will prove to be detrimental totheir rule (Machiavelli et al. 674). The aspect of being cunning as afox and brave as a lion must be applied in this quality. However, inconcurrence with Machiavelli`s views, this quality is guided byhypocrisy, as the leader must be perceived to be of integrity but inactual sense, he may or may not fulfill his promise depending on hiscourse or the interests of the kingdom. Machiavelli gives the analogyof a fox and a lion by saying that a leader must be both a fox and alion when making a promise. The fox will help him avoid traps whilethe lion in him will scare away the foxes that want to harm him.Among all these qualities, I believe the aspect of being cruel comesout strongly and a great leader must possess it. Whether we like itall not, a ruler cannot be loved and not hated, but being too soft orrather merciful endangers the kingdom. If cruelty fetches order,peace, and obedience, then it assures a leader that he will prosperand his subject will appreciate him (Machiavelli et al. 675).
Effectiverulers must have important qualities that will help them protecttheir rule and enforce their policies and still remain great and incharge of their citizens or subjects. A leader need not be verygenerous as this will weaken his financial security but should ratherbe miserly as this may fetch him reproach but he will not be hated.The other quality, most important, is that a ruler must have crueltyin order to maintain order, respect, peace and loyalty of hissubjects. It is good to be a leader guided by his promises, but aleader should be prudent enough to dishonor promises that may harmhim or his subjects (Machiavelli et al. 676). Apparently, I may haveagreed with most of Machiavelli`s leadership qualities, but othersmay argue that the aspect of the use of cruelty is tyrannical or adictatorship rule. However, a wise ruler knows how to balance mercywith using a firm/strong hand when restoring order. Others may arguethat leaders who do not keep their words are poor rulers, but Idiffer since the interest of the prince here is to protect hiskingdom and the interests of his subjects and thus he should go toany length to see it done. Therefore, weak leaders are those that donot have the necessary qualities to execute their rule or those wholack the prudence to deal with their subjects, whether they will beseen as fair or not, they have to protect the interest of the kingdom(Gujral and Gurdeep). The society thus needs strong, wise, cruel andbalanced and miserly leaders able to disguise all these leadershipand putting them to effect in accordance to necessity.
Gujral,Gurdeep S. Leadership Qualities for Effective Leaders. 2013.
Machiavelli,Niccolo, Peter Bondanella, and Maurizio Viroli. The prince. Vol. 43.Oxford University Press, 2008.
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