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  • Writer's pictureAdil Malia

Machiavellian Leaders...Digital Times

Niccolo Machiavelli, the medieval Italian Philosopher, defined leadership traits five centuries ago in 1513 whilst writing his book 'II Principe' (The Prince).

No debating that the world was a different place then. Whilst his boldness in expressing traits of a leader when clinically interpreted, render him to being perceived as the 'Devil' personified, his basic premise forms the foundation of quite a few relevant contemporary Management theories. And they continue to be relevant even in digital times.

The 5 principles Machiavelli stressed for a leader are:

  1. A leader should be loved and feared, both at the same time. However, if there was a mutiny and the leader had to face compulsion to be only one - feared or loved, then it would be better for the leader to be feared than to be loved !!! The Prince has to crush the mutiny at all costs.

  2. A leader should be supported by his people. No edifice of leadership could be sustained on its feet without support.

  3. A leader should be virtuous.

  4. A leader should be competent and should rely on his own capabilities for success. Relying on others to bring him glory through their special knowledge could be grave and fatal

  5. A leader should be blessed with intelligence.

'DEL' - Digital Era Leadership has embodiment of equal number of these Machiavellan qualities today, as they would have been so in medieval times.

The uninitiated tend to misunderstand the first point. You need to be both... Loved and feared at the same time by your people. However, in an adverse situation, where the leader faces situation of a mutiny, he is advised to chose to be feared.

The uninitiated misunderstand and wrongly portray Machiavelli's recommendation to the Prince to mean that a Prince should be feared more than loved.

Leader's value system is very critical to his acceptance by his people. His virtues are the basis of his credibility.

The medieval times of Machiavelli were different in a way to the contemporary 'outsourcing' times in the Digital era. To be competent & capable are strong virtues and the Prince is advised to develop these capabilities. He is recommended to avoid outsourcing or relying on any outsiders for these virtues and strengths. Unlike Crowd-Sourcing, Machiavellian advise is in-sourcing. Anywhichways, core competence or issues pertaining to IPs should anyways not be outsourced. This is a great lesson for the Prince.

A Prince has to be intelligent. He had to design strategies for wars as much as for administration and governance of his Kingdom. He needed intelligence to handle the many palace intrigues and conspiracies. A leader without intelligence was inconceivable.

An embodiment of these strengths and virtues in a strong body was what a good Prince needed. Substitute 'Prince' with contemporary CEO . As we decode competency models or look at the challenges that an effective leader has to manage in Digital times, these 5 leadership Principles continue to apply.

All powerful Kings and King makers carry a high probability risk of being misunderstood . Noicolo Machiavelli was one of the greatest of his time. Envy, jealousy and misunderstanding of his profound philosophies let him negatively branded. His lessons continue to apply even to millennial in the digital age.

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