American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Michael A. Ledeen sees the same parallels today between human nature, power, and the state of our institutions that venerable Renaissance writer Niccolò Machiavelli established and expounded upon in Italy nearly 500 years earlier. In Machiavelli on Modern Leadership
, he examines a variety of political, religious, economic, and even athletic leaders from the last days of the 20th century according to the exceptional tenets originally laid out in classic works such as The Prince
and The Discourses
His purpose now, Ledeen writes, is essentially the same as his subject's was then: "to present the basic principles of the proper and successful use of power in language that contemporary leaders can understand, the better to advance the common good." Although somewhat brief at less than 200 pages, this spirited book nonetheless manages to measure successfully the characters of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Ted Turner, Caspar Weinberger, Colin Powell, Yasir Arafat, and many others against the exceedingly rigorous (and often controversial) standards set by one of the most enduring of all leadership theorists. Despite following a string of moral philosophers and political analysts who have previously produced extensive material on both the man and his ideas, Ledeen shows in a fresh way precisely why Machiavelli's precepts remain as valid as when they were first penned. --Howard Rothman
From Kirkus Reviews
American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Ledeen (Perilous Statecraft: An Insiders Account of the Iran-Contra Affair, 1988, etc.) offers an updated version of the rules for leadership laid down by Machiavelli. Its the nature of humans to do evil, and war is our natural state. Anyone who would wield power in such a setting, writes Ledeen, echoing Machiavelli, ``must be prepared to fight at all times.'' This is as true in business, sports, and politics as it is on the battlefield. The leader must fight not only enemies but his (and in the rare instance her) own tendency toward indolence and contentment, for these will bring ruin to any endeavor. A leader must be of ``manly vigor''; he must be virtuous, possessing the military values of prudent judgment, alertness to changing conditions, bravery, courage, total commitment to mission; only when the leader is virtuous in this way will the people follow him. While there have been strong female leaders, such as Margaret Thatcher, on the whole women cannot achieve virtue for they lack the ``physical wherewithal and the passionate desire to achieve'' military glory. (Women are also a temptation to men while they are busy trying to lead.) One might then justly call a weak state with a feeble leader ``effeminate.'' And there is no better example of this, according to the author, than the US under Clinton, whose personal corruption and lack of military virtue endanger us all. The military has become, under Clinton, a place for bizarre social experiments, such as men and women serving together aboard ship. What Ledeen thinks we all need, then, is a sort of virtue Viagra, and this exemplifies his simplistic and decidedly dated answers to the complex problems of politics. This is an analysis of neither Machiavelli nor leadership, but, rather, a partisan broadside for which Machiavelli serves as a useful prop. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.