Created on Sunday, 17 April 2011 00:00
Written by Samantha See
The workplace is often described to be treacherous and even fiercely political in some environments. As such, much insight could be gained from reading Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince.
Who exactly is Machiavelli? Niccolo Machiavelli is a Florentine diplomat, historian and politician from the sixteenth century whose famed work of advice for rulers was ironically written in the prison for Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici, the grandson of "Lorenzo the Magnificent" and member of the ruling Medici family. Besides advising on the actions of great men, The Prince is also believed to be one of the pioneer works of modern philosophy.
Now, you may be thinking, how will a book that was written centuries ago be applicable in modern times, and what has a book that is written about politics got to do with business? More than just words of advice for rulers, the timeless advice in this book could also be considered a philosophical account. Besides, clear parallels could be drawn between the world of politics and workplace or the business world.
For one, in explaining one of the core concepts of his book, Machiavelli went into detail how states should be acquired and governed. He acknowledges the hereditary behaviour of a state, which could be compared to that of a family business, and dishes out advice like "He who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation."
Here lies what stands out in Machiavelli's work and what is often most debatable is his theory that the end justifies the means, no matter how immoral or "wrong" it might be. As a result, as effective as his methods may be, his work is often disapproved by and frowned upon his contemporaries and contributed much to the current negative connotations of the terms "politics" and "politician". However, it is often reasoned that Machiavelli's train of thought is understandable as he lived in a chaotic era of continuous conflict.
In all, The Prince provides good working knowledge of power play and politics which could be found almost everywhere, be it for work or play, as well as offers much food for thought as to how we may wish conduct ourselves as leaders – whether we concur with his views or not. You might also like: How to Ace your Interviews and Get your Dream Job
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