Machiavelli’s book, The Prince, captures a number of elements that he believes serve to provide a guide to leaders such as a prince on how to be effective leaders to those they are charged with. According to Machiavelli, an effective prince does not allow his self to embrace any other thought or subject for study other than the art of war together with its associated rules as well as disciplines. Machiavelli makes this argument since he believes these are the most important elements of leadership and they belong to those who are in power. In addition, he believes that these aspects of leadership are so important that they bear force, which enables princes to uphold their authorities.
Furthermore, embracing the concepts of war is one factor, which allows leaders to achieve the individual vision and reach the desired level of leadership. Machiavelli believes that if princes allow themselves to only think of tranquility instead of war and arms, they are likely to lose authority and jurisdiction to others who only understand the concept of arms and wars as a means to elevate one’s status and principality. Therefore, one way of losing authority would be to neglect the art of war. What gives a leader the power and authority that comes with leadership is embracing the art of war and dedicating sufficient time to its study. Machiavelli gives an example of Milan’s leader, Francesco Sforza who amassed power by embracing the concept of war. His children, who opted to neglect the art of war were relegated from being dukes or princes to being common persons; what one would call private citizens in today’s world (Machiavelli, 2004).
Machiavelli believes that those others who did not take advantage of the war to elevate individual social status are likely to be subjected to elements such as spite, which arises from not embracing wars. Therefore, Machiavelli expects a good prince to be able to protect his self from this kind of eventualities. His argument is based on the belief that there is a lack of proportionality between an individual who is armed and one who is not armed. In addition, it is not right that the one-armed should be obedient to the one who is not armed. Furthermore, it would not make sense for that individual who is not armed to be comfortable amongst servants who bear arms (Machiavelli, 2004). This belief arises from the fact that it would not be easy for this two groups of individuals to exercise cooperation since it is likely that there will be substantial disdain from one camp as well as immense suspicion from the opposite camp. Therefore, Machiavelli believes a prince without a substantial understanding of the idea of war would not expect respect and reliability from his soldiers. As a result, a good prince is supposed to embrace the concept of war and live by it at all times.
Other than this important idea of war, Machiavelli believes a prince should ensure his soldiers are well drilled as well as organized. This allows them to be well equipped to carry out missions on behalf of the prince or as Machiavelli puts it be well equipped “to follow incessantly the chase” (Machiavelli, 2004). The prince and his lot will then be accustomed to elements of life such as hardship; they will get to learn a lot about their immediate locality as well as the undulations of the terrain within their environment, which will allow them to be careful in their pursuit of greatness. This kind of information benefits a prince in two distinct ways; knowledge of the land gives a prince sufficient information regarding his country such that he can organize a counter-attack through knowledge as well as observance of the local terrain. Machiavelli provides another example of a prince who labored on with the art of war even when peace abounded. He uses the example of Philopeomen, leaders of Achaeans, on whom historians and other writers have placed substantial praise due to his unrelenting desire to learn the art of war even when most thought he did not need it.
Machiavelli also argues that a good prince is one who continually sharpens his intelligence through reading histories in which one will find noteworthy men whose actions can be considered illustrious. This allows a prince to gain knowledge relating to the conduct of such individuals during times of war, what contributes to victories as well as their defeat (Machiavelli, 2004). With such knowledge, a prince will be able to avoid those issues that may lead them to fail and embrace those likely to bring them victory. On this point, I am in agreement with Machiavelli since history has a lot to teach us about how to make the right choices. I, therefore, feel we should believe his assessment. Leaders who look back in history are likely to find other leaders in the past that showed immense charisma and excellent leadership qualities. For instance, leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi showed superb leadership qualities and he is worth emulating. Others, such as Adolf Hitler are examples of leaders who exemplified the dangers associated with abuse of power. However, it is not appropriate for leaders to shed blood in order to gain more power or leadership over their subjects. In addition, leaders should be respected not feared.
Erasmus, on the other hand, adopts a much different approach regarding the qualities that fashion a good prince. Based on Erasmus’ view, a good prince is one who embraces wisdom. He believes there is no other concept that betters wisdom since it provides an individual with sufficient guidance to make the right choices concerning leadership. Since there is empowerment in ruling over subjects who are able to exercise a free will, then it is only appropriate that a good prince seeks wisdom (Erasmus & Born, 1965). Erasmus believes that a good and able prince ought to depend entirely on wisdom and good judgment instead of the usual counsel provided by advisers who are mainly inclined to offer cupidity, encourage wrath as well as flattery or who are focused on advancing their individual ambitions. Consequently, wisdom guarantees that the prince’s rule flourishes in all aspects and once the subjects understand that the land is abounding with goodness due to the Prince’s wisdom, they remain jubilant (Erasmus & Born, 1965). Erasmus argues that an empire is not built on advancing agendas that ultimately result in bloodsheds. Therefore, a good prince is one who endeavors through hard labor in order to vintage power as opposed to gaining it through acts of war. Through wisdom, a prince is able to gain power without the need to shed blood. His subjects will give him respect and they will work towards ensuring a peaceful existence (Erasmus & Born, 1965).
Erasmus makes a very valid point as regards election of princes and one that I agree with fully. Election of a prince to take over power should not be based on the deeds of those who preceded him. Neither does it make sense to select a leader based on physical looks such as height or nature of one’s spirit (Erasmus & Born, 1965). They are not significant at all, as they would not influence the ability to lead. Instead, an appropriate prince is one whose nature is said, patient and who is not excitable enough to turn into a tyrant once good fortune comes knocking in which case such a prince would eventually throw away his counselors as well as advisers (Erasmus & Born, 1965). Furthermore, it is his belief that in navigating leadership, authority is not entrusted to a leader who betters his peers in wealth, birth or looks, but it is given to that individual who shows skill and aptitude necessary for sound leadership. Such a leaders would exhibit alertness as well as dependability. These qualities are important in a prince as well since the right to rule a principality or state ought to be given to a leader who shows wisdom, moderation, justice, zeal, and foresight (Erasmus & Born, 1965). Erasmus makes this argument since he believes the rightful leader of a state should be one who is able to steer his country into success through wisdom and good judgment. These qualities define a good prince other than knowledge and a good command of geography (Erasmus & Born, 1965).