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.