Whenever one thinks of written word that has stood the test of time over the centuries, religious text or government laws may come to mind. Through the course of reading many of the books I have read and blogged about, I found references to one text in particular, The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, which intrigued me enough to read it myself. As much as the book itself was interesting was the fact it was published in 1532.
The Prince is written in the form of letters to a person who has newly become a prince. Additional reading of the time period when Machiavelli lived can help explain how princes and religious figures ruled Europe and especially his homeland of Italy. In this political treatise, he gives advice to a prince on how to rule and maintain his rule. As I read this short text, I began to see why many business books quote Machiavelli – many of his recommendations to political leaders almost 500 years ago hold true to business leaders today. His applicable advice is my take away from The Prince.
The one that rang truest to me was his recommendation of not using mercenary forces for the military and to build and maintain a military force of your own. This relates to today not only for the military but for business, namely in the hiring and development of a team of employees rather than working solely with contractors and consultants. His justifications included loyalty, and the fact that mercenaries are more concerned with getting paid than the work they do. Where this latter point is not always the case with hired help, having some “skin in the game” is a good motivator. As I am expanding my own operations, Machiavelli’s thinking is similar to my own.
Other advice from Machiavelli included seeking counsel from others while avoiding flattery but ultimately making the decision yourself, being decisive in your decision making, not seeking to be liked but to be respected and to takes sides in any battles.
If you pick up a copy you will find it has been translated into English from its native Italian and heavily annotated for the benefit of the reader. It is a short but powerful book, and you can glean a hint of sarcasm in Machiavelli’s approach to offering his advice. I recommend The Prince to any leader or would-be leader, as words of so long ago still ring true today.
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
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