nexus point | Leadership Development ~ Talent Management ~ Realising Potential

Machiavelli’s “The Prince”

‘The Prince’ was written by Niccolò Machiavelli in 1513, and published in 1532 – five years after his death.  Machiavelli was a diplomat, philosopher, playwright, and musician amongst other things.  Admittedly, he is known most commonly in the pejorative sense.  In that light, it may come as a surprise to some that his most famous text, “The Prince”, is a book on diplomacy and honour.  It emphasises the need for stability, with preservation at stake.  Again, it is one of those texts that have been widely drawn upon by executives worldwide as a resource for developing principles for leadership and management.

“The Prince” is understandably located inside a context of hierarchical, centralised leadership.  The principles put forward in this book become overtly relevant to the present day society and organsiation when transposed into a more contemporary context, for instance that of distributed and convivial leadership (Dinham 2007, Hames 2007).  A few key points from this text include: “Act to win honour – campaign for victory.”  When you take action, do what you need to do to produce the result, and do so in a way that honours yourself, the people, and the organisation.  “Show esteem for talent.”  Acknowledge people, and give them opportunities to express and develop themselves in alignment with the organisational vision and intention.  This will make a phenomenal difference to productivity, satisfaction, reduced turnover, and quality of product.  “Encourage citizens.  Do not be afraid of improving and reward someone who wants to do this.”  You will find staff members who just want to contribute, and to keep expanding who they know themselves to be and the difference that they can make.  It is more than worth the time to identify these staff, work with them, and reward them for their efforts.  Again, the difference this makes to the culture of the organisation is worth whatever is invested here.  “Honour your word.”  For leadership to really flourish, this is a necessary foundation.  You really can forget being effective in leadership if you do not honour your word.  “Be clear on who holds accountability and what for.”  Seems too simple for complicated minds like ours, but how much dissent and lack of productivity has been sourced in a lack of clarity on the structure for accountability?

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