The Leadership Theories Of Machiavelli

23 Mar 2015 27 Apr 2017

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Machiavelli, born on the 3rd day of May 1469, acquired his university education in the University of Florence. He wrote a famous book entitled "the Prince". This book is famous for its break down on the issue of attributes of leadership and as such has become a guideline for leaders. He wrote the book based on his earlier experiences, addressing how a prince (leader) should rule.

Although the book gained a lot of popularity, his views on the attributes of good leadership had a lot of flaws. In The Prince he advocates mean rule instead of liberalism. He talks of the benefits of being a dictator or exercising the autocratic style of leadership. There are a lot of leaders who have and are following the Machiavellian style of leadership as he had described in The Prince. Examples of such leaders who exercised or exhibited this type of leadership style were Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi of Libya and Idi Amin of Uganda.

Muammar Gaddafi being a Machiavellian according to his leadership style has been the leader of Libya since he staged a military coup on the 1st of September 1969. [2] With the strict fellowship he has in the Machiavellian style of leadership, he has sought to maintain the power he has had ever since. In a recent article Gaddafi made a statement saying, "I will fight to the last man and the last bullet" [3] This goes a long way to emphasize on one of the shortfalls of Machiavelli when he talked about the fact that a leader has to gain power and should be able to maintain it by any means possible. In the same way, Gaddafi promises to maintain his power even if it means he has to kill. This action is affecting Libya in a negative manner since the world is pushing for democracy and finding all means to eradicate autocratic system of governance and as such it is affecting the economy of the state due to the current instability the country is facing now. As such, most investors would not be willing to invest in a country where peace does not prevail. Also, with growing rate of civilization, killing just to maintain power is barbaric and this would then send the state to a state of regression.

Idi Amin was an autocratic leader who sought to exercise his power through military means. In his era, he created the situation whereby he was the only one who had the final say and no one could voice out their values in any way he or she deemed fit. He created and environment which had and still has a traumatizing effect on the people of Uganda now. During his reign as military dictator, there were issues of the abuse of ethnic affiliations, cases of the abuse of human rights and potent radical control, Asians faced expulsion from Uganda and killed outside normal legal proceedings. [4] Ugandans have still not devised the means of changing their government through undisturbed measures. Violence has become an option for which their voices could be heard.

Again, Machiavelli talked about the situation whereby the prince did not have to possess any thoughts apart from that of war. He describes meanness as an attribute of a good leader. He says liberality would lead a prince or leader to be despised and hated whiles meanness would lead to reproach without hatred hence, being mean is the answer to greater leadership. [5] 

Moreover, Machiavelli allowed the hatred he had in him to take the greater side of him when he was imprisoned because of suspicion of his involvement in a conspiracy where he lost the trust he had in humans. A typical example of such a leader who exhibited Machiavellian traits in his style of leadership was Ghana's former president, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings. Just as it is of human nature to seek revenge for every pain inflicted upon him, Rawlings came into power through military means to seek revenge for all the pain inflicted upon him in the past. He knew gaining power would be the only way to show his hatred and have his revenge best served. [6] This is because having the power he needs, all he has to do is to order for the people responsible for his pain to either be killed or assassinated. As a result of this shortfall of Machiavelli which Rawlings also exhibited, most affected Ghanaians even after the change from a military government to democratic governance still cannot find it in their hearts to forgive him for his actions. It is for this reason that the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) was set up.

In addition, Machiavelli's concept makes mention of the fact that the end justifies the means. He says that if the action a leader takes brings about catastrophe in an area of specialization or nationwide despair then the action taken should not be regarded as a good one. [7] Combining this concept to the idea of establishing fear amongst ones followers, some Machiavellian leaders tend to modify this act by protecting the citizens by any means possible so as to be loved by them. When the American's annexed Iraq, the Iraqi's tried to resist their forces even though they were technologically more competent and outstripped them in terms of their quantity, Saddam Hussein having inculcated a great amount of fear in and hatred for American's in his followers. He made himself an adherent of the Machiavellian style of leadership. Also, as a result of the fear the Tunisian president drum in his people, the only way they could show they were fed up with all his activities was have someone start the protest and this was done by the unemployed and frustrated young man who felt the only way his voice could be heard was to set himself on fire. Again, this action did not just end there. Egyptians under the rule of Hosni Mubarak saw this as a platform to also voice out their values. Therefore one can say that all these people were simply quiet because of the brutal fear they had for their various leaders and were thus waiting for the right moment to retaliate.

Furthermore, Machiavelli in his book wrote about a leader (the prince) being feared rather than loved by his people. Here, this situation would not work in a democratic society where the people decide how long one should be a leader but in the communist society like China, the leader could in his own discretion decide to practice the Machiavellian style of leadership and it would work perfectly for him since he has to instill fear in his followers due to the fact that it is less likely for them to revolt against the government or protest by defying authority. [8] 

In conclusion, these Machiavellian leaders mentioned above, considering the good and bad sides of Machiavelli's thoughts on good leadership has led them to impact their nations in a negative manner. Most of the countries like Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, among others are still in a state of unrest and this posses as a threat to the surrounding nations since there is the fear that such actions could be transferred.

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