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How Machiavellian Are You?
Do you have a Machiavellian personality?
Niccolo di Benardo dei Machiavelli (1469-1527) wrote a small but very powerful book, The Prince, during the Renaissance. Machiavelli had never been a leader himself but a "civil servant" and more importantly, a confidant close to powerful men. In his book he offered advice to princes on the best way to rule the people. His political philosophy was radically different from medieval ideas about the proper obligations and policies of effective rulers.
"Everyone knows that princes should keep their word, but we see that the princes who have accomplished the most have been accomplished at deception. A prince may fight with laws, which is the way of human beings, or with force, which is the way of animals. A prince should imitate the fox in cunning as well as the lion in strength. A wise prince should never keep his word when it would go against his interest, because he can expect others to do the same. In order to pull it off, you must be a good liar, but you will always find people willing to be deceived." The quote is Machiavelli - the bold emphasis is mine.
Where did these startling, radical deas come from? Certainly not from the ancient Greek philosophers who stressed the well-being of the entire community and the rule of law. No, Machiavelli’s sources were the powerful rulers he observed in person – Francesco Sforza, Lorenzo de Medici, and most importantly, Cesare Borgia. If you read the biographies of these powerful men you will learn they were often tricky, devious and dishonest.
"To sum it up, it is useful to seem to be virtuous, but you must be ready to act the opposite way if the situation requires it. A prince should do good if he can, but be ready to do evil if he must. Yet a prince must be careful to always act in a way that appears virtuous, for many can see you, but few know how you really are. If a ruler conquers and maintains his state, everyone will praise him, judging his actions by their outcome." Does this Machiavellian quote remind you of some politicians we all know?
You may be interested to know that some historians question whether Machiavelli was really as amoral – without standards of right and wrong – as he seems. Maybe he was just rebuking men like Borgia and exposing the extremes to which they would go to stay in power. Whatever his purpose, the word - Machiavellian - now signifies behavior that is manipulative, cunning, dishonest and self-serving.
Now that I have refreshed your memory of Niccolo Machiavelli, let’s find out –
How Machiavellian Are You?
Read each statement and decide if you agree, are undecided or disagree with it. On a piece of paper write the numbers 1. through 10. Opposite each number place the value of the number that you chose under agree, undecided or disagree. For example, if you agree with statement number 1. you will place a 5 next to 1. on your paper.
Statements . . . . . . . . . . Agree Undecided Disagree
1. Most people are honest. 5 3 1
2. Most people think first of their pocket-
books and later about right or wrong. 1 3 5
3. To get someone to like you, tell that
person what he or she wants to hear. 5 3 1
4. The best way to earn someone’s
respect is to be kind and honest. 1 3 5
5. The best way to earn someone’s
loyalty is show him or her your power. 5 3 1
6. There are no absolute rights and
wrongs. “Right” is what works. 5 3 1
7. A good president reads the polls to
find out what people want and
makes those things his policies. 5 3 1
8. Most people are extremely selfish. 5 3 1
9. A promise is a sacred trust. 1 3 5
10. Nice guys finish last. 5 3 1
Now add up the values (numbers) on your paper that you printed next to the numbers 1. through 10.
If your Machiavellian Score Is 10-23
You are not at all Machiavellian. Some would say you are an idealist and an optimist about human nature. You have strong ideas about right and wrong.
If your score is 24-36
You are more cautious about trusting human nature and less idealistic than those who scored above. You know that selfishness can sometimes get in the way of lofty ideals.
If your score is 37-50
You are a true Machiavellian. You are practical to the point of being a hard-headed cynic, not very trusting about human nature, and ready to deal with what is, rather than what ought to be.
© Copyright BJ Rakow Ph.D. 2011. All rights reserved.
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B. J. Rakow, Ph.D., Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So." Enlightening information about interviewing, networking, writing resumes and cover letters and negotiating. But fun to read.