What Would Machiavelli Do?: The Ends Justify the Meanness

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How did the rich and powerful individuals who move the earth get where they are today? Are they smarter? Faster? Better looking? Certainly not. Some are even short and ugly. What, then, is their edge?

The answer is simple: they're meaner. That's all. And if you want to get where they're going, you'll be meaner, too.

The good news is that once you get started, it's easy. Walking in the steps of the Florentine master, Stanley Bing will show you ...

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How did the rich and powerful individuals who move the earth get where they are today? Are they smarter? Faster? Better looking? Certainly not. Some are even short and ugly. What, then, is their edge?

The answer is simple: they're meaner. That's all. And if you want to get where they're going, you'll be meaner, too.

The good news is that once you get started, it's easy. Walking in the steps of the Florentine master, Stanley Bing will show you how to be all the Machiavelli you can be. How to beat people who are smarter than you are. How to make other people cringe and whimper when you enter a room. How to get what you want when you want it whether you deserve it or not. Without fear. Without emotion. Without finger-wagging morality. One scalp at a time.

They do it. You can too.

What Would Machiavelli Do? is more than a road map for people who want to get to the top and stay there. It's a way of life you can use at home as well as at the office. A way of seeing other people from 50,000 feet—as teeny-tiny ants you can squish. A simple, detailed plan for those with the courage to leave kindness and decency behind, to seize the future by the throat and make it cough upmoney, power and superior office space.

Some books are not for everybody. This one is. So start reading. Or get out of here. You're beginning to get on our nerves.

Author Biography: Stanley Bing is a columnist for Fortune magazine, which he joined in 1995 after a decade writing a monthly column for Esquire magazine. He is also the author of the novel Lloyd: What Happened. When he is not commenting on corporate life, Bing works for an enormous multinationalconglomerate whose identity is one of the worst-kept secrets in business.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Disregarding the counsel of Jesus and Buddha, Stanley Bing has concluded that if the meek will be inheriting the earth, it won’t be happening in the next fiscal year. Taking heed, the Fortune columnist wrote this bestseller to tell managers how the despotic Machiavelli would have done it. Bing uses the teachings and actions of the Florentine master politician to instruct postmodern managers on thriving in shark-eats-shark office politics.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780066620114
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/2000
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 4.50 (w) x 7.12 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Stanley Bing is a columnist for Fortune magazine and the bestselling author of Crazy Bosses, What Would Machiavelli Do?, Throwing the Elephant, Sun Tzu Was a Sizzy, 100 Bullshit Jobs . . . And How to Get Them, and The Big Bing, as well as the novels Lloyd: What Happened and You Look Nice Today. By day he is an haute executive in a gigantic multinational corporation whose identity is one of the worst-kept secrets in business.

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Read an Excerpt


Not long ago I was approached by a young manager by the name of Bob who was having a problem managing a subordinate.

The workload was quite heavy in their department, and as Friday was approaching it was clear that the required duties might very well stretch into the weekend. Sadly, Bob's deputy Mary was scheduled to go on a long-planned vacation that very Saturday. If Mary were to go, life would become very difficult for Bob, who had an important golf game he'd been looking forward to since his last golf game the prior weekend.

"I don't know," said Bob. "I'm under an incredible amount of stress. If I don't get in eighteen, I may not be able to handle the pressure next week. But I feel bad for Mary."

Bob's boss, Ned, who had long ago earned his first Mercedes--and not a baby 350 either, but one of those big 500s that eat up more than one entire lane as they burn asphalt at 75 mph--swiftly and rather bluntly inquired: "Bob, let me help you out. Answer this question. If Machiavelli were here, what would he do?"

Bob thought about it for a moment, then, his worry lines returning to their usual flabbiness, shot back:"He would pretend to have forgotten about Mary's vacation altogether, put an enormous amount of work on her shoulders at the last minute, and wait to see if she had the guts to take off under those conditions. Of course, she probably wouldn't."

Sure enough, things worked out perfectly--Mary rescheduled her vacation, Bob got in his round of golf (although he was annoyed several times by cellular phone calls while on the course) and Bob's boss was happy because all the work got done while he was inGstaad, skiing!

Amazing how if you want the right answer, all you have to do is ask the right question.

This funny story illuminates the basic precepts we're going to be employing: People in the workplace who wish to succeed, have fun, and always get things their way should be intimately aware of what Machiavelli, the first truly modern, amoral thinker, would have to say on any subject that might come to pass during the normal course of business.

Nobody can really understand Machiavelli's actual writing today, however, because it is too literate, too grounded in meaningless social, political, and military anecdote, to remain interesting to anyone with normal intelligence, attention span, and patience.

Lacking an ability to read Machiavelli, people likeyou are going to need books like this one to explain how his teaching can help you become very big, very powerful, and very rich. Some are written by intelligent people who are interested in Machiavelli. This is not one of them'. You're not interested in Machiavelli. You're interested in yourself. Why waste your time on anything else?

This book boils down the path of the master into an overall strategy with the absolute minimum of sentiment, and the greatest amount of selfishness and brutality. In so doing, we create a way of operating that anyone sufficiently nasty can embrace with great creativity. Best of all, once you get used to the Machiavellian way, you will find it liberating, honest, and fun!

The basis of Machiavellian leadership is to keep in mind that Machiavelli guides our every action. Put another way, Machiavelli's thinking is user-friendly in every situation, be it social, professional, or somewhere in-between.

A Few Words About the Master

Niccolo Machiavelli was born in Italy during the Renaissance, which took place, for the most part, four or five hundred years ago. The circumstances of his birth were relatively humble, but I don't know that much about them. That's not my job. I'm here to look at the big picture, to give you the executive summary. If you want to know more specific stuff, look it up. That's your job. I must warn you, there may be a test on this material in the middle of a meeting in which you could be publicly humiliated, so I'd suggest you get busy.

At any rate, our prophet and master was a midlevel bureaucrat who for the best part of his career worked for a variety of departments reporting in to the Prince of Florence. He did a lot of traveling and spent a considerable amount of time representing the corporation on the road. This was when Florence was still a freestanding entity, before it was acquired and merged into Italy. So Machiavelli and his entire culture pretty much considered their enterprise to be the be-all and end-all as a global power on a path toward double-digit growth.

The biggest corporate officer of all was Lorenzo de Medici. Smart, brutal, and not a nice guy except when he felt like it, Mr. Medici and his court were very political, and at some point Machiavelli got on the wrong side of his boss. It's not important why. Who cares? It's not any more germane than the reason why Sumner Redstone suddenly decided a few years ago that he had to be rid of Frank Biondi, who to all intents and purposes looked to be an excellent number two and successor at Viacom. He just did, that's all. And that's what counts.

Machiavelli backed the wrong joint venture, or something like that. Things being what they were at that stage of the game, young Niccolo wasn't just sent to a depressing field office in Skokie to work with the Quality Assurance team. He was remanded to prison, where he sat around thinking of ways to get himself back to the thirty-fifth floor. On the bright side, he wasn't killed, the way he might have been if he reported to a different Italian family several hundred years later.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
Preface xiii
Introduction xvii
What Would Machiavelli Do? He would exploit himself only slightly less than he exploits others 1
He would be unpredictable, and thus gain the advantage 3
He would be in love with his destiny 6
He would be, for the most part, a paranoid freak 8
He would always be at war 12
He would cultivate a few well-loved enemies 16
He would have a couple of good friends, too 21
He would acquire his neighbor 22
He would think BIG 25
He would move forward like a great shark, eating as he goes 27
He would kill people, but only if he could feel good about himself afterward 29
He would fire his own mother, if necessary 37
He would make a virtue out of his obnoxiousness 41
He would be way upbeat! 44
He would be satisfied with nobody but himself 45
He would treat himself right 47
She would view her gender as both a liability and an asset 52
He would use what he's got 58
He would embrace his own madness 60
He would do what he feels like doing, you idiot 64
He would say what he felt like saying 69
He would delegate all the crummy tasks, except the ones he enjoys 71
He wouldn't exactly seek the company of ass-kissers and bimbos, but he wouldn't reject them out of hand, either 72
He would respond poorly to criticism 73
He would carry a grudge until the extinction of the cockroach 74
He would lie when it was necessary 77
He would be proud of his cruelty and see it as strength 81
He would kick ass and take names 85
He would permanently cripple those who disappoint him 89
He would torture people until they were only too happy to destroy themselves 93
He would feast on other people's discord 96
He would make you fear for you life 99
He would be loyal to the people who could up with all this 101
He would have no patience for anyfuckingbody 106
He would screw with people's weekends, wedding plans, open-heart surgery... 107
He would put it in you face 108
He would realize that loving yourself means never having to say you're sorry 110
He would have no conscience to speak of 117
He would scream at people a lot 120
He would establish and maintain a psychotic level of control 123
He would follow the money, honey 127
He wouldn't be afraid to sling that bullshit 131
He would eat to kill 137
He would never retire 142
He would have fun 144
Afterword: What Would Machiavelli Not Do? 145
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Customer Reviews

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( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2005

    Not another one!!!

    This book is entertainment, not knowledge or advice... The author doesn't get Machiavelli.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2002

    Save your time and money

    This 'historian's' view of history as solely what is funny enough to sell books is inaccurate and foolish. If you want to learn about the political writings of a man who is still used in government today, might I suggest The Prince! Save this for when you are short on toilet paper!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2001

    Fun, poolside/bedtime reading

    All of you who have ever wondered how the idiot who is above you got there might want to read this. Written tongue in cheek style I think it will make you laugh while provoking some insight. The guy at the top of your company probably fits this profile somewhere. Easy to read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2000

    What would Duncan do? Read this book

    Its not very often that a book can make me laugh out loud but I found one that can! I cant say I agree with everything in the book but I understand it. Very well written and fun to read. A definate addition to the book self!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2000

    Bing's book fails to justify author's ends

    When are writers going to stop over- simplyfying Machiavelli's works? Certainly not with Bing's little book. An ambitious person in business would do well reading Machiavelli straight without the aid of Bing's book or ones like it. Bing only reinforces the typical and boring myths about a man who was a true genius and whose works deserve to be carefully studied by those in business. Bing is way off target. If your serious about getting to the top, I recommend buying 'The Discourses' or 'The Prince' and avoid this one altogether.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 1999

    Take it with a grain of salt, but by all means TAKE IT!!!

    This book was great. You'll read it and think to yourself, 'I could never do that to someone', then 2 days later you're laying into someone at your office and loving it!! This is not a blue print for how to be a bad person, rather some sound, in-your-face facts about what you'll have to do to get ahead. This book is for anyone who has aspirations of sitting at the head of the table in their company's board room.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 6 Customer Reviews

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