“All the states, all the dominions, under whose authority men have lived in the past
and live now have been and are either republics or principalities.” In Machiavelli’s, The
Prince, timeless keys to a successful principality are examined. The keys are understanding
human nature, respecting that nature, and reaffirming that successful leadership can exist
in the same fashion yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Machiavelli’s perspective of human nature is founded on the principle that people
in general don’t want their culture changed by an outside influence. Machiavelli
demonstrates in the book that the nature of people is to defend who they are. When “the
prince” attempts to change their culture in any way the subjects will do any number of
things to crush this attempt or even change the leadership. If a prince uses force to try to
change people this will lead to hostility, because as Machiavellis says, “they remain,
defeated, in their own homes.” This underlying fact will lead to a rebellion of some sort.
One way this rebellion can happen is when a powerful foreigner invades the principality.
The now “defeated” people will join this powerful foreigner, in hopes that their culture
will now be respected, to dethrone the prince. When the prince tries to use force to
control the people it only creates enemies. Machiavelli explains this aspect of human
nature when he writes, “he harms the whole state by billeting his army in different parts of
the country, everyone suffers from this annoyance, and everybody is turned into an
enemy.” On the contrast if a prince allows the people to keep their customs Machiavelli
states that the people will remain content when he writes, “For the rest, so long as their
old ways of life are undisturbed and there is no divergence in customs, men live quietly.”
Another natural tendency of people comes with freedom. Once they have had a taste of
freedom, they virtually cannot live without it. This feeling of control over one’s life is a
quality that once molded is nearly impossible to reshape. Machiavelli asserts this idea
when he writes, “a city used to freedom can be more easily ruled through its own
citizens...than in any other way.” The same tendency lies in the control that the prince
gains over the people in the principality. Once the prince has control he finds that giving
up control to be extremely difficult. That is why ideally a prince would posses a number
of qualities to find success as a leader.
Only through an understanding of the nature of his subjects, having an ability to
control his subjects, and possessing the means to defend his subjects can “the prince” truly
find the universal key to open the door to upholding the ideals of practical leadership.
When a prince understands the nature of the people it is easier for him to enter the land.
Machiavelli writes of the Romans and how they developed their empire,...