One of the most widely-read books by renaissance thinkers is “The Prince” by Niccolò Machiavelli’s. He was a frontline politician before he retired and became a writer; majorly on the qualities that characterize state leader. Machiavelli was impatient with how state leadership was run, he focused his attention on the way things were basing his arguments and criticism of the current system on historical records. Despite the fact that he shared with other humanists on profound pessimism on human nature, he argued that there are many social benefits that would be achieved through pursuit of moral corruption (Kemerling Para. 1).
Machiavelli wrote his best works made him popular, “The Prince”. The book offers practical guide on the various ways of ruling a city such as the 16th Century Florence City. He tabled some of the “virtues” that the prince must exhibit which includes the strengths, the skills, and the prowess which are exercisable in both favorable and adverse circumstances. Nevertheless, his crucial leadership qualities are unlike the virtuous character-traits described by ethical philosophers; Machiavelli perceived that the public success and a leader’s private morality ought to be utterly separate. His concern was not what makes “a good human being” rather a man who makes a “good prince.” In other words his argument was that even if a man is wanting in his moral life, if he has what it takes to make the society succeed, he can make a good prince (Kemerling Para. 2-3).
Some of the leadership qualities that advocated for include:
In Chapter 14 of (p. 80-82), Machiavelli argued that prince ought to carefully use the military force to acquire and maintain control over a state. In fact he wrote another book “The Art of War” that was totally devoted to explaining how one can acquire a state by deployment of the army. He posited that the power should not only be for those who are prince but also for the strong men who can be able to overthrow a government and take over the leadership. He based his argument on many princes who have lost their states and positions because of reluctance to use of force opting for modesty. Therefore he posited that no man can continue to reign if he neglects the very art of war.
To support his argument, Machiavelli gave an example of Francesco Sforza who became a Duke of Milan from private person through the use of the arm and contrasted him to his sons who decided to avoid troubles and hardships of the arm and ended up becoming private men. He posited that being unarmed causes one to be despised which is among the major ignominies that a prince ought to guard himself from (Machiavelli, 81).
This approach to state leadership is not applicable today; acquisition of power via military is barbaric and long overdue. The world today is a global village- though every nation is sovereign; any activity is under the scrutiny of international bodies such as the UN which will intervene to curb any attempt to overthrow a government.
In Chapter 15 (83-82), he did not share with many philosophers’ arguments that a prince ought to exhibit virtues of honesty, kindness, and such other traits that are praiseworthy by the society, instead he argued that a prince ought to keep praise aside and do whatever will guarantee his continuity in the leadership. His insistence was on practicality personality for one to be a successful leader. Machiavelli posited that practicing virtues that will make the subject praise you do not a guarantee that they will follow you; instead they may throw you out with your virtues. For a leader to be successful in the public life, he must learn to practice what is good no matter whether it’s in support of the public or not.
This trait is applicable in today’s world though with a lot of prudence. We live in a world of relativism; whatever is good to you may not be to me. Therefore, in deciding what seems good to me, there is a need of having advisers, especially from that particular field to show me both sides of the coin.
Machiavelli was not ignorant of the need of a leader to have the support of the subject. He therefore argued that divine approval of abstract duty or personal character counts, and the leader should do some things in order to win the praises even if whatever he is doing is wrong; as long as it wins him favor in the eyes of his subject it is worth doing. Thus leaders must seem to be compassionate in the public while ruling their armies with cruelty, act cunningly in the private but in the public cultivate integrity character and spend money wisely while appearing to be generous (Machiavelli 85-86).
Machiavelli observed that it’s good for a leader to be loved and feared by the subject at the same time. But since it’s hard to achieve both, the better option would be to be loved, though not at the expense of the state. The winning of love should be exercised with intense caution; otherwise, one jeopardizes his position. He should ensure that though he is feared, he is not hated by the subjects. He advised that when there is an individual who is a threat to his leadership, he should be executed though in a prudent manner letting the public be aware of the justification behind execution (Machiavelli 88-90).
Craftiness in state leadership is uncalled for; it shows lack of integrity and having moral values that are wanting. Although as Machiavelli argues that a leader should win the loyalty of the subject, there are many other ways deployable for such other than taking such a risky direction. One should not lose his morals for the sake of power; it shows lack of veracity. Once the subject discovers your craftiness and betrayal, they will turn their loyalty and love to hatred, winning you a ticket out of leadership. But creation of the public image is very important. A state leader should use his influential position in winning the allegiance of the people.