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What Would Machiavelli Do?

by Stanley Bing 

Parallel to the theme of our Golden  Chambers, how the rich and the powerful individuals move the earth today? Individuals who are totally of the same chemical composition as you and me, but are they smarter? Better looking? Brighter? Most certainly, not  Some are even short, thin and ugly. What, then is the edge?

Theyíre Meaner, thatís all. And if you want to be where they are, you have to be mean, or meaner, too.

The good news is that once you get started, itís easy. Walking in the steps of the Florence master, Stanley Bing will show you how to be all the Machiavelli you can be.

How to beat people who are smarter than you are. How to make other people cringe and whimper when you enter a room. How to get what you want when you want it whether you deserve it or not. Without fear. Without emotion. Without finger-wagging morality. One scalp at a time.

They do it. You can do it, too.


Niccolo Machiavelli was born in Italy during the Renaissance, which took place, for the most part, four or five hundred years ago. The circumstance of his birth were relatively humble, but I donít know that much about them. Thatís not my job. Iím here to give you the executive summary.

At any rate, our prophet and master was a medieval bureaucrat who for the best part of his career worked for a variety of departments reporting to the Prince of Florence.

The biggest corporate officer of all was Lorenzo de Medici. Smart, brutal, and not a nice guy except when he felt like it. Mr. Medici has a court that was very political, and at some point Machiavelli got on the wrong side of his boss. Why? Who cares? Itís not any more germane than the reason Sumner Redstone suddenly decided that he had to be rid of Frank Biondi, who to all intents and purposes looked to be an excellent No. 2 and successor at Viacom. He just did, thatís all. And thatís what counts.

Things being what they were at that stage of the game, young Niccolo was remanded to prison, where he sat around thinking of ways to get himself back to the 35th floor. Sitting and thinking, thinking and sitting, Machiavelli, like so many prophets before him, was purified during his time in the wilderness. And since he was a very good writer, he wrote.

What emerged from the white heat of his imagination, parched from his long stint in the career desert, was a brief, timely letter of advice to his prince on how to become the ultimate senior manager. Medici liked what he read and exercised a full measure of executive amnesia, and Machiavelli, robed in a bright and shining success, was welcomed back to a nice corner office with full honors. His fame has only grown in years since.

The master has been gone for quite some time now, but his teaching has remained with us and is now the core strategy by which a few generally quite short, people have come to lead the rest of the human race to a variety of ends. And for them there is but one message from which the entire font of wisdom springs: The ends justify the meanness.

Donít like it? Get over it, you sniveling tree hugger. Thatís the way things are. If you havenít the stomach for true success, thatís all right. Go be a folk singer or a grphic designer or a social worker or some damn things like that. The world has need for people like you as well.

To be true to the vision of the master, we must be as selfish, narcissistic, manipulative, driven, and creative in getting what we want as we can be, not just in our important business actions, but where it really counts: in our hearts. Not only CEOs can behave like princes. Lying, manipulation, displays of false anger, displays of real anger, threats, blandishments, guilt production of people who misperceive the senior officer as a father or mother figureóall these tactics and more can be essential tools for people at all levels of management, not just for the big guys.

You can use them , too, if youíve got the brains, the guts and the stamina. And you ask the right question, the big one, the alpha and omega of the power we seek:

What Would Machiavelli Do Ö

Editorial Review: 

Machiavelli would feel at home in industry today. You donít need a birthright to be a modern princeójust an impulsive ruthlessness such as he described four centuries ago while trying to get back into the good graces of a Medici nobleman. 

In the book, Bing gleefully offers hard-boiled Machiavellian advice about whom to fire in a downsizing (consultants first, secretaries last), how to make employees love you (Give then perksÖ When theyíre spending your money, you own themĒ), and why itís important that you kick ass (one of the ways: ďcutting them off curtly when they speakĒ) and take names (so people know youíll not only hurt them, youíll also go after their friends). 

The overriding lesson of this book is always to love yourself, never apologize for anything you do, and when all else fails, recognize that the truth is flexible, and so can be bent anyway you want.  In the book, Bing puts his ruthless advice into an easily digestible how-to format and the only way you can tell itís satire is when he mixes the musings of Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot in with those of modern business figures such as former Sunbeam CEO ďChainsawĒ Al Dunlap. Firing people, killing peopleósame rules, different game.ó Lou Schuler