Machiavelli and Modern American Business Culture
Is it better to be feared than loved? If you are the owner of a Fortune 500 company (or any major corporation for that matter) the answer is most certainly, yes. While reading “The Prince” I came to find myself relating the writings of Machiavelli more to business practice than to politics. For politics, Machiavelli is still totally relevant, however, for business practice, he is giving sound advice that will take a manager or business owner straight to the top.
How is Machiavelli related to American business culture? Well, let’s think about it. How many company owners got anywhere by being nice and trying to be generous to all their employees. Perhaps there are few, but close to none. In business, the end result, or the bottom line, justifies the means. For instance, to have a glorious end in the business world, owners will sometimes have to do nasty things like mass layoffs, pay cuts, etc. These nasty moves will then result in the greater good of the company. These moves are not done for short term gain, but for the long term benefit of the establishment. Being so, the earlier moves made by the company might be frowned upon, but overall deemed as acceptable because they did what they had to do.
If it is figured that the end justifies the means, one must next ask if a company owner should be more interested in being feared or loved? In the perfect world it would be very nice to be loved, but the reality is that employees will take advantage of the employer who is too gracious. The employer should instill a certain level of fear in the employee so that he will work most efficiently. An employee who simply “likes” or “loves” the employer will easily be turned, should something negative happen to him relating to the company. On the other hand, if something negative happens to the employee who already fears his employer, he will not only continually fear the employer, but perhaps work even harder than he did previously.
To sum it up, two of the key points of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” coincide with proper business practice:
- The end justifies the means, if it is for a greater glory.
- It is better to be feared than loved.
Businesses did not hold the same kind of power in Machiavelli’s era as they do now. There was nothing like the transnational corporation who generates more revenue than a small nation. I find that particularly interesting because the most powerful force of the time, back in Machivelli’s day, was the government. Now, it is business and the government. Although Machiavelli had originally intended for his writings to be applied to government, they can now be applied to business too. Machiavelli generally understood the nature of power, and the way in which one must work with the people in order to succeed.