Machiavelli Essay, Research Paper
When an action is described as Machiavellian, there are often times negative connotations associated with the specific deed. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin may be described as Machiavellian because they went to great lengths to attain their goal. The two pillaged and murdered ruthlessly to produce visible results. However, they are also two of the most despised men in the world. Hitler and Stalin’s ends could never justify the means regardless of their effectiveness in leadership. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Ronald Reagan who was adored by many but accomplished very little. Therefore, we can conclude the praise of your followers is not sufficient criteria when discussing successful ends. A successful end such as those of Cesare Borgia similarly is not sufficient when assessing the effectiveness of one’s leadership. To evaluate Nicolo Machiavelli’s ideology of the end justifies the means, we must first define what is the end and thereafter can we truly see if the ends do justify the means.
In every picture I have ever seen of Franklin D. Roosevelt, he was smiling and those around him were filled with joy. The people who followed him loved him and he was extremely anxious to please them. From Machiavelli’s perspective, FDR’s reputation for generosity (before polio) was foolish and if continued would have eventually caused him to lose respect of everyone. However, after stricken with polio, FDR began to develop some assertiveness and moreover, sought to understand himself. In the middle of Roosevelt’s life, we witness a man who is transformed and begins a pursuit towards self-knowledge. Roosevelt imparted direction to a lost country and did this by making many deals with the devil. Because Roosevelt had an effective presidency and was loved by his followers, we can conclude that he had successful ends. Even though he is described as making deals with the devil, historians and students to this day continue to see Roosevelt as one of the greatest president’s in this nation’s history. This leads us to say that regardless of how questionable the means of reaching a goal is, individuals tend to judge on the final product. I tend to disagree because Roosevelt I was viewed as successful not because of what he accomplished but rather how he was perceived. Hitler, Stalin, and Nero had accomplished goals in leadership but they were defiled by the entire world. The criteria for successful ends is the attitude people have towards you. Roosevelt went to great lengths to gain the applause of his followers and because of that we see him as a great leader.
In my experience as coordinator for the Asian American Christian Fellowship, there have been instances when a meeting or activity went extremely well and yet I have felt that I was not an effective leader. This year, our group is one of the largest groups on campus and has grown by over 25%. As I have experienced tremendous success for the club, I have witnessed various problems within the leadership group. The leaders are not unified and the visions are not complimentary. Every Sunday evening after a leader’s meeting, I cannot help but to feel empty and that our group as a whole is lacking. Even though, feedback in general has been great, I have not gained approval of the people I have been leading. This leads me to believe that success in of itself is not adequate in evaluating a leader. The idea of the end justifying the means implies that the end is powerful and the essential goal. However, in my experience, I have seen great products of an organization yet still not feeling complete. Roosevelt was loved because of his actions and evaluated by his results. Therefore, we see a duality in evaluating a leader. The first measures the means of the leader and the second measures his or her accomplishments.
A Biblical example of this is Saul in the Book of I Samuel. Saul was commanded by God to attack the Amalekites and destroy everything. In an attempt to please God, Saul spared the fat calves and lambs to give as a burnt offering. God then rebukes Saul by telling him “to obey is better than sacrifice” and subsequently rejects him as king. The illustration here is to show that though a leader may be very accomplished, it is futile if he or she does not remember the great context. Regardless of what he or she is leading, the most effective leader must keep in mind the needs of the people, the goal of the organization, and any other authority they must submit to. In Saul’s case, he had a great accomplishment in the conquering of the Amalekites and on top of that he had noble intentions. He was, however, judged by his actions and not his effectiveness. The most revered leaders have not always achieved what they sought out to do but rather were sensitive to the world around them. In some cases, the leader must be sensitive to the people’s needs while others it is God’s commandment. To obey is better than sacrifice means that an individual will not be based on the end result alone. A leader may sacrifice all things and accomplish many things, but unless he or she is obedient to followers, the end means very little.
The three basic qualities of the leader are competence, ambition, and integrity. Dr. Warren Bennis describes integrity as being the product of three essential parts: self-knowledge, candor, and maturity. Candor and means are analogous in the sense that the two are based on the similar things. Dr. Bennis writes that candor is based on honesty of thought and action. Regardless of how successful a leader is, his or her actions must remain moral. On Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times, we witness President Clinton setting vision while his defense opens. His effectiveness as a leader has been undermined by his actions. Therefore, the actions of the leader are an important component in measuring a leader’s success.
Throughout history, we have witnessed a number of leaders who were extremely successful. They were the ones who depended on competence and ambition. However, the leaders we have revered have been leaders who also possessed the integrity component. The emergence of the balanced leader who possesses these three traits is what truly makes a great leader. Machiavelli’s teachings are similar in that a leader needs to be balanced and temperate. Not overly kind or cruel but moderate in the actions. When we think of the end justifying the means, we tend to think of extreme examples such as Hitler. The result of one’s leadership is a component in judging one’s effectiveness just as the manner in which the result is attained is another component. The two work in conjunction with each other and neither the means nor the end can justify the other. We have seen leaders who accomplished little but have had great candor. These leaders are prevalent in corporations today and are often times laid off after a short stay. On the other extreme, Hitler’s ends can never justify his actions. The duality of the evaluation of leadership is comprised of both the end and the means with neither greater than the other.