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Traditionally, at best, calling someone Machivillian meant that person was manipulative, and at worst meant they were evil. Whether you believe Machiavelli is the devil or a prophet, there is no denying that his thinking on power and influence stands the test of time.

Born in Florence in the late 13th century, Niccolò Machiavelli was the epitome of a Renaissance Man, He was a diplomat, politician, historian, philosopher, humanist, writer, playwright, poet, and the number one performing fine collector of overdue books at the Florence library. He was a primary political advisor to the Medicis during their rule over the Republic of Florence.

His book, The Prince, is an examination of methods to gain, consolidate and maintain power. Every leader can learn from Machiavelli. For instance:

“It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”

A leader that only panders to gain favor with their flock will not be respected. If you easily forgive bad behavior or lack of performance, exceptional team members will be demotivated to thrive. A great leader holds his team accountable, and there are consequences for consistent non-performance.

“Men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, for everyone can see and few can feel. Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are.”

Actions speak louder than words. Your team is constantly watching you, and therefore, an effective leader always models the behavior they want the team to see. You want to instill urgency, model urgency, and don’t sit in your office, feet up on the desk, and read the newspaper.

“The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.”

You are judged by the company you keep. Lie down with Dogs, and you wake up with Lauren Boebert.

“If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.”

This quote is the very definition of “Machiavellian,” Yet, it doesn’t say severely injure, indiscriminately… it says that if it is time to take someone on, make sure that you don’t give them the ability to retaliate. Machiavelli advises, don’t take them on; take them out.  Kind of Tony Soprano-ish… no?

In the words of HBO’s “The Wire,” if you come against the king, you best not miss (warning violent video).


“There is no other way to guard yourself against flattery than by making men understand that telling you the truth will not offend you.”

The Achilles heel of the weak leader is the fear of criticism. A truly strong leader encourages critical discourse. A strong, effective leader can handle the truth.

“Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.”

Nope… while often attributed to Machiavelli, this quote appears to be an interpretation of a Sun Tzu quote, “All warfare is based on deception.”

“Because there are three classes of intellects: one which comprehends by itself; another which appreciates what others comprehend; and a third which neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others; the first is the most excellent, the second is good, the third is useless.”

The first is a leader, the second is a manager, and number three is a pawn. Pawns aren’t useless.

And finally, Machievelli’s best advice.

“If you can’t beat them, arrange to have them beaten.” 

…oh, wait… sorry, that was George Carlin.

I’ve read Machiavelli’s the Prince, and I don’t believe that true Machevilliasm is evil. It is harsh, realistic, and insightful. Certainly worth the read. But that’s just Machiavellian of me…

If you’d like to discuss Machiavellian business strategy or just how you can become a better leader… hit me up for a no-obligation, complimentary, one-hour online coaching session. You can schedule that by simply pressing the little red button below.

Want to learn more about building high-performance teams? You can check out my new book, Intentional Leadership, available on Amazon, in Hardcover, Kindle, or Paperback by linking here.