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Rulers have always looked for ways to enhance their authority and prolong their stay in power. To fulfil these desires, leaders have made use of various methods over the centuries. These methods range from winning the support of the ruled through charismatic means to acquiring the allegiance of the subjects using force and threats of punishments. Various philosophers and political theorists have tried to come up with the most effective methods of leading successfully.
One of the most influential political treatise every written is The Prince. The Italian political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli wrote this political literature, which articulates his insight on the effective political conduct of a great ruler. This treatise offers some valuable insights on how a ruler can ensure his success in an environment where chance plays a part. This paper will make use of Machiavelli’s work to propose how a leader should sensibly and reasonably respond to an environment where events are determined in part by fortune.
Leader’s Response to Fortune
Machiavelli agrees that the happenings of the world are controlled by fortune and it would be impossible for humans to have full control of such matters. However, he insists that fortune is only in control of half our actions (Machiavelli n.d., p.65. par.1). Human beings have half the control of events that are governed by fate. They can therefore take steps to ensure that fortune does not overpower them. To respond to an environment where events are determined in part by fortune, the leader must take precautionary actions beforehand.
While the leader cannot stop some events from happening in future, he can ensure that he is well prepared to deal with them. Machiavelli states that while it might be impossible to oppose fortune while it is in action; a person can take measures in advance to restrict the manner in which fortune will act. Machiavelli (n.d.) warns that fortune “shows her force where there is no organized strength to resist her” (p.65, par.1). The leader should therefore take protective measures to address any event that fortune may throw his way.
The leader should be flexible enough to alter his ways in accordance to the realities of the day. The defining characteristic of fortune is that it keeps changing. According to Machiavelli (n.d.), “the man who adapts his course of action to the nature of the times will succeed (p.66, par.2). The actions of the ruler should therefore be determined by the events taking place at the present. The leader must be willing to change his approach if necessary in order to be in tune with the times.
As such, the leader must not place too much emphasis on a certain approach. For example, the leader must not choose to be kind all the time, or cruel all the time. Each of these attributes can be of valuable use in different situations (Machiavelli n.d., p.66, par.2). The successful leader is prudent enough to identify the virtue or vice that is necessary to promote the safety and well-being of his position at a given time. By showing great adaptability, the leader will be able to adapt his course of action as fortune dictates.
Machiavelli warns that men who remain set in their ways are bound to come to ruins after some time. Most leaders are inclined to stick to a method of procedure that has produced good results in the past (Machiavelli n.d., p.66, par.2). However, such an approach can bring about disastrous results to the leader. Machiavelli asserts that while a particular leadership method might be appropriate at some time, it cannot be expected to produce the best results indefinitely.
Fortune changes and the same action might result in failure for the unchanging leader. However, if the leader it to remain set in one way, Machiavelli proposes that “it is better to be impetuous than cautious” (Machiavelli n.d., p.67, par.2). The impetuous leader will be able to achieve more success and maintain power for a longer period. Even so, the most successful leader will be the one who does not remain set in any way but is able to harmonize his actions to be in accord with fortune.
Leaders operate in an environment that can be full of uncertainty. To increase their chances of success, leaders should know how to sensibly respond to the environment where events are determined in part by fortune. Niccolo Machiavelli, through his groundbreaking treatise, offers advice on how the leader can effectively operate in such an environment.
Machiavelli states that the leader must prepare beforehand for the events that might occur. He must also be flexible enough to adapt his ways to the realities of the day. Machiavelli warns against a leader sticking to any one approach for all the situations. The counsel provided by Machiavelli is based on what he referred to as the effectual truth rather than an imagined reality. For this reason, his response to how a leader should act is practical and can produce the best results for the leader.
Machiavelli, N n.d., The Prince, Routledge, London.