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Friday, June 30, 2017

Friday Feature Book Review: Classic Leadership "The Prince" by Niccolo Machiavelli 古典的なリーダーシップ : 君主論ニッコロ・マキャベリ

"The Prince" is must reading for any entrepreneur, hedge fund founder or CEO. It is the secret "how to" book for many corporate politicians, especially within investment banking. It was written in 1513, in Florence, Italy, by one of the most innovative thinkers of his time. The author Niccolo Machiavelli, opened the eyes of many rulers then and since. Every James Bond villain or ambitious person has often learned many of these aggressive power lessons. They were first laid out so clearly when small kingdoms ruled the world. This template of power centered around a castle and ruled from Europe to Japan. Although famous today, the title "The Prince" was only created by the publishers 5 years after his death. This is not widely known. It is another case of a great artist never knowing how deeply his work could spread in wide influence until centuries after his death. My only satisfaction is that Machiavelli himself, would relish the appreciation of his findings. They were wonderfully explained and ultimately followed by many all around the world.

Few know that he was arrested by the Medici family and tortured with a "strappado". A device used to slowly and painfully dislocate one's shoulders over time. A counter-coup in Florence, was discovered and Machiavelli's name was found among others in the group. Luckily he was released after an amnesty was given following a family member then a cardinal, became elected pope in Rome. Bribery would have been more widely acceptable in elections then (if not now). Machiavelli was restricted to house arrest, and during his free time, he wrote this book as a way of showing his thoughts on power for the Medici court. 

It was no small estate, according to a tax census in 1498, it was 150 acres or 60 hectares (sqm 600,000). It is now run by a local winemaker that has restored the original house where this fine and timeless book was written. The literal translation of the name means crossed nails, from the same cross Jesus Christ died upon. After 14 years of previous experience, this is basically a job application. Many of the best accepted lessons are now widely known like "the end justifies the means". Other pearls of wisdom have also spread far and wide. It is best to remember that there were no European nation states like today, only principalities. 


One noble family with a large land holding would dominate an area. Rivals were everywhere and borders were very impermanent. As families intermarried or went to war, these borders expanded or contracted. Politics were at best very basic. You could say anything you wanted, or do anything you wanted, but only if you had the ability to back it up with violence. You needed military backing in order to enforce your rule and helpful ideas. Having a local home grown military was not always expected. If you had the money back then, then hardened mercenaries, especially from Swiss cantons were often hired for enforcement duties. Leaders were free to rule as long as they had they might to make their own rules known. The top 10 lessons for any leader today in any nation are in fact timeless, and can be adjusted to today's modern world be it economic or political. My personal favorites are listed below:



The Top 10 Takeaways from this book that really impact any reader are:

1) Power is about the ability to change, power unused is power wasted. (Do not talk about a plan, just get it done)
2) Once in power, make change immediately without delay. (Fire everybody you hate in the first day, then everybody left will feel better and more focused once they know they will survive)
3) You win power because you are in the right place at the right time. (Never think you are just better and deserving)
4) It is better to be feared and respected than loved. Unpopular decisions force this to happen (Get used to it)
5) Dress like a leader, look the part everyday, not just occasionally. (Presentation is a major part of power)
6) Confrontation is a part of power. Keep an eye out for fights with your enemies. (The loser may become your friend)
7) Being in power means you tell your own story your own way, in your own time, the way you want.(No need for any filters)
8) When powerful leaders make a mistake, fix it quickly without delay, never let it linger. (You solidify loyalty faster)
9) Never expect the best forever, do not trust luck. Luck will always run out. (You never keep power over time just because you are lucky)
10) Never change your mind. Make decisions early, never sit on the fence. (Power needs to be projected clearly and constantly)

These are just a small list of favorites. The whole book gives many more and illustrates the contexts around them. The mental mind set of true power is very key. It is amazing to think that leaders over time, have had to figure out so many basics on their own, when this author figured them out and explained them so well 500+ years ago. Well worth a read, and worth many more reviews in the years to follow. Kingdoms that do not change and adapt, wither and die. (Companies seem to be similar) All are words to remember by a great thinker and observer. Highly recommended!

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