How Machiavellian Are You?

Certain words, such as “Machiavelli,” set off alarms in the fire stations of many people's minds. Other people, though, can explore, rather than react negatively to such words. Read the following statements with an open mind; answer Agree or Disagree, depending on the extent to which you agree with the truth of the statement. Think of the degree to which the statement matches your way of thinking. If you both agree and disagree with a given statement, try to determine which choice you'd agree with just slightly more or less than the other choice. Instead of a 50/50 response, then, you would consider the statement as a choice between 51/49%; you would favor one response slightly more than the other. (There are no trick questions here. Simply tell if you agree or disagree with the statements.)

 Place a check in the appropriate column to the right of each statement

1)  We should be adaptable when unforeseen events occur. Agree/Disagree

2)  One change always leaves indentations upon which to build another change. Agree/Disagree

3)  In the beginning, problems are easy to cure but hard to diagnose; with the passage of time, having gone unrecognized and unattended, they become easy to diagnose but hard to cure. Agree/Disagree

4)  A workplace that is used to freedom is more easily managed by its own employees than by any other arrangement. Agree/Disagree

5)  A wise influencer must always tread the path of great men and women and should imitate those who have excelled. Agree/Disagree

6)  People who least rely on luck will be the most successful. Agree/Disagree   

7)  Success is a combination of opportunity and ability. Agree/Disagree

8)  Most people have no faith in new things until they have been proved by experience. Agree/Disagree

9)  If you have to virtually beg others to fulfill a mission, you are destined to fail. Agree/Disagree

10)  If you are respected as a leader, you will be secure, honored, and successful. Agree/Disagree

11)  Things that come easily are hard to maintain. Things that are hard won are easier to maintain. Agree/Disagree

12)  A leader who thinks more about his own interests than about yours, who seeks her personal advantage first, will never be a good leader, for others will never be able to trust her. Agree/Disagree          

13)  In order to keep employees loyal, managers must honor them by sharing both distinctions and duties. Agree/Disagree


Because there are thirteen items, if you had seven or more in one category, that is your “majority” category. Which category, Agree or Disagree, is your majority category? ___________

Now let's see how open you are to influences that do not represent typical sources of knowledge-acquisition. In all likelihood, you agreed with at least seven of the statements. Would it “shock” you to learn that these thirteen paraphrased statements are all taken from The Prince by Niccolo Macchiavelli? Written 500 years ago, the book has become synonymous with words like “duplicity” and “deceit.” And yet, much of what it endorses makes sense for today's leader, manager, and/or influencer.

Does a majority of Agree answers mean you are Machiavellian, in the most negative sense of the word? No, not at all. It means simply that no one thing is 100% “right” or 100% “wrong.” Even in The Prince there is wisdom from which we can profit.

But…if you are not open, you won't be able to spot the worth; your stamp of “worthless” will prevent you from seeing worth in hard realities. If you take no risks into the unpopular or unknown, you will not be able to optimize or reify possibilities that lie hidden in the here and now.

Remember that selling a particular service, product or proposal to others depends on your understanding of the current reality and your ability to remain mentally flexible or open to new ideas. Not until you have achieved these mental states can you create the new reality. It's often true that “if you build it, they will come,” but if you don't hear or see the possibilities calling to you, you will never be able to reify them.

Tips for honing your leadership skills

1) When key events, positive or negative, occur in your life, try to regard them as learning opportunities. Step back and depersonalize the situations, if you can. Regard them as gifts, even the worst of them, gifts that will strengthen you and reify strengths you did not know you had.

2) Develop the comfort you feel in various situations and various cultures. If you allow discomfort to overtake you, you cannot open yourself to the treasures embedded in experiences.

3) Work to form new partnerships, new relationships, new alliances. As they say about insanity, “Only a madman would do the same thing over and over and expect to have different results.” To create new realities, you need new thoughts. That's impossible if you aren't having new experiences, if you aren't meeting new people.

4) Deliberately mix concepts, ideas, possibilities that do not seem to go together at all. Ask yourself, for example, what would happen if you combined this with that, or if you changed this thing, or if you eliminated that?

5) Widen the camera angle from which you are viewing the world. Think about things that are happening in the outside world and the impact they might have upon what you are trying to do. Step away from the “brilliance of transient events,” as Prussian military strategist Karl von Clausewitz described them, and think about long-range or short-range consequences that may result from them.

6) Alter the approach you typically use to solve problems and make decisions. With unprecedented situations, don't always gravitate to your old patterns. Make connections, if you can, between variables you would not typically consider.

Dr. Marlene Caroselli is an author, keynoter, and corporate trainer. She writes extensively about education, business, and careers; her 61st book is a Kindle/Nook ebook titled Jesus, Jonas, and Janus: The Leadership Triumvirate. Her first book, The Language of Leadership, was named a main selection by the Executive Book Club. Principled Persuasion, a more recent title, was designated a Director's Choice by the Doubleday Book Club.

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