Sunday, March 18, 2007

Machiavelli and the Organizational Prince

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to sit on a leadership discussion panel. One of the participants asked each of us which book we would recommend as a must read for new leaders.

When I heard the question, my first thought was “The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt. Unfortunately, by the time the question came to me, someone had already recommended "The Goal". So, I took a mental inventory of my bookshelf and all I could come up with was “The Prince” by Machiavelli. I keep an old, dog-eared copy of “The Prince” on my bookshelf. I can’t say that I often refer to it, but there it was and I stated talking.

Machiavelli’s advice is one of the first and perhaps the most enduring examples of early leadership theory. Before “Machiavellian” became a bad word synonymous with all things deceptive, “The Prince” offered sound advice for dealing with the medieval world of politics and power struggles. In many ways, Machiavelli’s advice is still sound.

Like it or not, as a leader, you are a Prince; well of sorts. And if you are willing to accept that you are a Prince, then you must know what Machiavelli had to say about being a Prince.

Okay, Machiavelli doesn’t paint a pretty picture and his advice is, well, Machiavellian. However, you must read him. While you may not like his methodologies, if you read carefully between the lines, you will see that Machiavelli knew human nature and more importantly, human behavior.

If you are still reluctant, let me put it another way. If you fail to understand what Machiavelli has to say, you are doomed to suffer at the hands of those who do. Worse yet, you are doomed to cause the suffering of your own people. Simply put, you are doomed to operate in ignorance.

Since "The Prince" is a short book, don’t you think that reading and understanding the message is much easier than being doomed?

When you are done, I still recommend you read “The Goal

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