Machiavelli Badaracco Essay - Week Four


            Reading both Niccolo Machiavelli's "The Prince", and "Leading Quietly, An Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing" by Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr, one might wonder what different motives and methods of leadership might be learned from each.  Both books offer guidance for making decisions and preparing their readers for leadership roles.  Machiavelli's medieval Prince is offered ruthless rules and stark advice such as killing an enemy’s family so that they will not reappear and make a challenge for power, while Badaracco suggests today's leaders may have to use delaying tactics such as game playing, buying time, not telling everything you know, and use political allegiances as effective and valuable tools for decision making.  If each book’s suggestions are put into the context in which they are given, they each have something to offer today’s leader.  I feel that "The Prince" which might have been better titled "How to Gain Land and Power, and Have Influence Over People in the Middle Ages", and Badaracco's book, which perhaps would benefit from the moniker, "A Sensitive New-Age Manager's Guide to Uncontroversial Decision Making in a Turbulent Volatile World" both offered their own perspective on leading and making strategic decisions in today's world. 

By looking at their respective approach to Leadership and by comparing Machiavelli's advice to Badaracco's rules the reader can gain valuable insight into how people control organizations, build businesses, get elected, or otherwise become great leaders.

On the surface, both Badaracco’s and Machiavelli's "Leaders" seem to be concerned with advancing themselves with motives full of self-interest and seemingly little regard for the well being and interests of the organization in question.  Machiavelli's Prince concerns himself with gaining and keeping power and influence, so that he might make his political and financial clout greater by taking control of more lands and exacting tribute from minor feudal lords, in order that he might have a great army to defend his state.  Badaracco's leaders appear to have substituted tenacity for ambition, with their motives being an awkward mixture of self-preservation, advancement and organizational loyalty. 

One particular set of passages from the books highlight the similarities and the differences in strategies offered by the authors.  Both Rebecca Olson, from "Leading Quietly" and Machiavelli's Prince had to concern themselves with coming into leadership from an outside position, and try to maintain and consolidate power so that challengers could not succeed in displacing them.  Machiavelli's Prince is given advice on how to keep power over his feudal lands, whether he acquired it through force, natural ascension, or as a gift from friendly kingdoms. 

In Rebecca Olson's case, she was an outsider made President of a large innercity hospital, who had to rid the organization of a troublesome executive that abused his position of power by harassing workers at the hospital. Due to his long held position, this executive was considered an insider, and still had a lot of influence inside the organization. 

Rebecca Olson could have learned a thing or two from reading Machiavelli's book, and possibly avoided the negative consequences from her decisions regarding Millar.  In "Leading Quietly", on Page 70, Badaracco states, "Rebecca Olson could not have predicted that Richard Millar would imperil his own reputation by engaging in guerilla warfare against the hospital."  I disagree with Badaracco on this point.  Even though she methodically consulted lawyers, offered a generous severance package, and gave Millar a quiet and graceful way to escape the situation, she didn't require a mutual non-defamation agreement as a condition of the severance package.  She assumed that since the Hospital was not going to make trouble for Millar after his departure, that he would reciprocate in his actions.  In Chapter III of “The Prince” Machiavelli offers this advice to a Prince who has newly acquired lands, on how to deal with those competitors who would potentially challenge a leader for power: "if he wishes to hold them [lands], has only to bear in mind two considerations: the one, that the family of their former lord is extinguished; the other, that neither their laws nor their taxes are altered, so that in a very short time they will become entirely one body with the old principality." This seems to suggest that vanquished foes should either be neutralized or removed from the scene completely so that they cannot cause problems.  While Machiavelli’s suggested course of action seems brutal and unrealistic in today’s world, there is still a lesson to be learned for leaders.

While both these books offer a unique and illuminating vision of leadership and the complicated motives, strategies and consequences of decision making, a person should not base their leadership style exclusively on one or the other of these books, but rather try to intuit how general rules and strategies learned can apply in their own unique situation.  Those leaders wanting to succeed in today's constantly changing world can utilize successful strategies from both books to help guide them, but should remember what methods and approaches are morally and ethically appropriate in today's modern society.  Although the authors approach it in different ways, perhaps the biggest message in both books is that at the days’ end, both great leaders and petty ones must live with themselves within the confines of the situations they have created through their own decisions and choices. 


(C) Jacob Stewart 2002 (I didn't copy, why should you?)