November 5th, 2009

nny, thinky

on leadership, council and credulity

"So a shrewd prince should adopt a middle way. choosing wise men for his government and allowing only those the freedom to speak the truth to him, and then only concerning matters on which he asks their opinion, and nothing else But he should also question them thoroughly and listen to what they say; then he should make up his own mind, by himself. And his attitude towards his councils and towards each one of his advisers should be such that they will recognize that the more freely they speak out the more acceptable they will be.


"I want to give a modern illustration of this argument. Bishop Luca, in the service of Maximilian the present emperor, said of his majesty that he never consulted anybody and never did things as he wanted to; this happened because he did the opposite of what I said above. The emperor is a secretive man, he does not tell anyone of his plans, and he accepts no advice. But as soon as he puts his plans into effect, and they come to be known, they meet with opposition from those around him; and then he is only too easily diverted from his purposes. The result is that whatever he does one day is undone the next, and what he wants or plans to do is never clear, and no reliance can be placed on his deliberations.

"A prince must, therefore, always seek advise. But he must do so when he wants to, not when others want him to; indeed he must discourage everyone from tendering advice about anything unless it is asked for. At the same time, he should be a constant questioner, and he must listen patiently to truth regarding what he has inquired about. Moreover if he finds that anyone for some reason holds the truth back he must show his wrath."

--The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli