“Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessary.” – Machiavelli, The Prince
I recently started reading a book that was gifted my by one of the authors. The name of the book is “The 48 Laws of Power.” At first it was quite depressing to me because the main theme of the “laws” is how to manipulate those around you in order to gain, maintain or distribute power. This concept is anathema to me and based on their character I can say it’s anathema to my fellow authors. I’ve always been taught and have it firmly engrained in me that manipulation and scheming only leads to ruin in the long run. However, I have to say that I’ve seen many (too many) leaders in my career that have used these rules to significant effect and climbed the ladder of success all the way to the top. In fact, I’m seeing it play out all around me lately at work and in our nation’s capital. That isn’t going to change my approach though.
The quote above is in the book and made me laugh when I read it. Unlike the other aspects of the book that made me go down a negative road, this quote resonated with me, but not in the way you think. I have a close colleague with whom I’ve co-led our largest organization and major projects before that. She and I have decided to be devious in a way that benefits our workforce while stealthily undercutting those senior leaders who are following the rules of power that the book I’m reading describes. We are so like-minded in our scheming that I’ve taken to calling us The Wonder Twins. It’s funny when we both get in one of our offices and start figuring out how to head off an evil decision at the pass without the would-be evildoers even knowing what hit them. It might sound contradictory, but Machiavellian In a Good Way is our motto. Having read that quote, I’m even more convinced that we’re taking the right approach and that we’ll disprove the rule that our fate is ruin. It’s worked well so far.