Machiavellian Management

MIGHTYtEAMOver the years, I’ve observed various styles of management in action.

I’ve seen them all: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve seen management by democracy and dictatorship, by ballot and buffoon.

And yet, out of all the management styles I’ve seen, the worst is, by far, the Machiavellian management style.

If you’re not familiar with Niccolo Machiavelli’s masterpiece, The Prince, I recommend reading it.

It isn’t exactly an exciting read, but an important piece of literature, nonetheless.

In his treatise on political power, Machiavelli pontificates the unvirtuous qualities of fear and the importance of wielding fear, trumpeting that “it’s better to be feared than loved.”

Now, Machiavelli’s philosophy may have merit in some arenas, but utilizing it in the 21st century is a tricky proposition, especially in healthcare.

I’ve seen management utilize fear

I’ve seen them fail because of it.

Albeit, fear can be a powerful motivator, it often thwarts progress and does not effect change.

The Machiavellian management style demotivates employees, lowers morale, and increases employee turnover, costing employers time and money.

The Machiavellian approach asserts that the only person who can know what is best for a group of people is the leader, who sits on his throne and issues decrees that those below him must follow.

Most managers who choose the Machiavellian approach to management do so because they know no other way by which to lead people.

It is a default setting for many in leadership positions: bark out orders and hope for compliance.

But, if a leader lacks the social and emotional intelligence necessary to motivate his employees without employing fear tactics, threats, and intimidation, that person becomes a liability to his team rather than an asset.

Breakdown in this leadership style occurs because Machiavellian managers don’t realize that their biggest asset lies within the very team with whom they’re working.

When this management style becomes the predominant methodology for rallying the troops, it’s clear that it’s time to explore new leadership styles.

Time to review your leadership methods

People are, arguably, the largest untapped source of potential within an organization, so let’s consider an alternative to Master Machiavelli’s management: transformative leadership.

So called because it has the tremendous advantage of transforming individuals and building human capacity among groups of people working together to achieve a common goal, transformative leadership recognizes that placing trust in a larger group of people is the key to effecting widespread and meaningful change within an organization.

“After all, who wants to live in fear?”

This style of leadership is far preferable to the Machiavellian approach because it relies neither on fear nor love.

It is, instead, dependent on the ability of one leader to inspire and foster leadership in his team where it really matters–from the ground up.

Transformative leaders submit that knowledgeable, competent employees should be entrusted with difficult decisions, that they should decide together what ideas and possible changes are worthy of pursuit.

The transformative leader is confident in his employees, and rather than making decisions in isolation, he chooses to place decision-making power in the hands of his employees, a radical move in today’s healthcare system.

If you’re an administrator, maybe it’s time to review the leadership skills, or lack thereof for that matter, of your organization’s management team.

Consider exploring a management style that motivates employees without relying on fear to accomplish goals.

After all, who wants to live in fear?  Better instead to be known for your capacity to empower employees and for your ability to inspire confidence and meaningful change.

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