Machiavellian Politics

As a leadership consultant and executive coach I am often asked by my clients to help them understand and navigate organizational politics.

Most people I speak to have a negative perspective of office politics- they associate it with backstabbing and pushing your own agenda at a cost to others. I have a different perspective; my experience is that business politics is about human nature and to ignore it is to ignore reality. In a perfect world the best workers would be promoted on merit alone and the best ideas would be adopted regardless of personal interest – but we do not live in Utopia- we live in the real world. If you want to survive and prosper in the real world you need to combine a good, strong work ethic and bolster it with smart relationship building.


Monday Morning Perspective

“The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships.” – Anthony Robbins


The term ‘Machiavellian’ is often used to negatively label those who have mastered the Art of Politics in Business but this may be paying a disservice to Nicolo Machiavelli ( 1469 -1527) who wrote a handbook for politics and human nature called “The Prince”. I read The Prince as a young woman but I recommend that my coaching clients read “The New Machiavelli” by Alistair McAlpine. McAlpine’s book is a practical and readable guide to mastering the Art of Politics in which he explains why:

  • Loyalty is not a reliable factor in the workplace
  • Great power is held by the “little people” in a business
  • It is better to spread power than to centralize it
  • You should never believe your own publicity

I have just picked up the book again and was impressed by how Machiavelli’s description of an ideal leader is as relevant today as it was in the fifteenth century. He suggest a natural leaders will:

  • Be guided by as sense of morality, he/she has a philosophy for life and business
  • Be able to assess the loyalty of his followers as well as demonstrate loyalty to them
  • Be trustworthy and be known to be trustworthy
  • Be fair; even if the leader has to make an unpopular decision, if it is fair he/she will be respected
  • Be able to accurately judge a follower’s ability
  • Always act in a way that commands respect and beyond that, respect others
  • Resist trading old friends for new
  • Never shirk responsibility or fail to express gratitude to others
  • Look after their own health, have a balance of mind body and spirit

Finally a leader must have a sense of his or her own place in history, for that will ensure long term wellbeing.

Much of what Machiavelli is advocating here has been validated by modern research (Kouzes and Posner immediately spring to mind).

What is refreshing is that Machiavelli accepts that these are ideals that we should look for in those that we follow and aspire to develop in ourselves.

How did you do with the list?

Have a wonderful week!

Warmest Regards,

Crystal Dyer

© Crystal Dyer 2011. All rights reserved.
ISSN: 2158-1355


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