Summary of How to Choose a Leader

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  • Applicable


This short book by political science professor Maurizio Viroli curates the best of Niccolò Machiavelli’s writing and effectively reveals his wisdom regarding leadership and political power. The most salient parts turn out to be quotes from Machiavelli – words that have endured for centuries. Given the cruelty meted out in his time, Machiavelli (1469-1527) would probably have advocated ruthless retaliation and using any means necessary to protect the home state. Readers of The Prince may find that the version of Machiavelli the author characterizes, although accurate, seems considerably less ruthless than a more detailed presentation might demonstrate. Still, applied to a basic corporate or political leadership quest, this is surprisingly juicy. While always politically neutral, getAbstract recommends this excellent condensation of practical political advice to senior executives, aspiring leaders, business professors and students, and anyone interested in how 500-year-old words can be so relevant today.

About the Author

Maurizio Viroli is professor emeritus of politics at Princeton University, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and a professor of political communication at the University of Italian Switzerland in Lugano.



Eternal Truths

The reason people still flock to read Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) some 500 years after his death is because many issues he addressed remain unchanged – political power, leadership and human nature. In his own lifetime, the public recognized Machiavelli as being deeply insightful in interpreting the intentions and motivations of leaders. The respect and popularity he gained then has never waned. Although calling corporations, governments or people “Machiavellian” has become synonymous with accusing them of crass, calculated self-interest, that summation is a lazy and incomplete caricature of his writing and influence.

Machiavelli heavily influenced the United States’ founding fathers. John Adams credited Machiavelli for “the revival of reason in the matters of government.” The central role of liberty and the separation of powers in the American Constitution owe a debt to what Machiavelli advocated as “non-domination.” If you replace his ancient labels for the ruling aristocracy, such as “nobles,” with the more modern terms “officials” or “elites,” the timelessness of his concepts and practical advice becomes apparent.

“The Prince”


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