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Machiavelli on Modern Leadership : Why Machiavelli's Iron Rules Are As Timely and Important Today As Five Centuries Ago Hardcover – May 1, 1999

3.9 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

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.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Truman Talley Books; 1st edition (May 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031220471X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312204716
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #459,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Machiavelli on Modern Leadership by Michael A. Ledeen is one of the most entertaining and instructive books I've read. It's one that I am going to keep at hand because I am sure to be going back to it time and again. It's also the perfect book to buy for your friends-and your enemies. Ledeen serves up Machiavelli's thoughts on the makings of a leader in easily digestible morsels, garnished with wonderful (good and bad) examples from the modern world of politics, government, military life, business, sports, religion. He has so much fun at this game that you inevitably start playing along with him, applying Machiavelli's rules to all the "bosses" you've ever known in your own life. With this book in hand you can also gain a new perspective on all the political figures you have learned to love and hate. Many world figures have already been dispassionately dissected for you by Ledeen, but you will find yourself looking around for others on whom Machiavelli would have conferred his seal of approval or disapproval.
Looking back over my own life, I found many classic Machiavellian examples, especially of the "bad" prince, in that terrible Communist world I left behind in 1978. Machiavelli tells us that, because men are more disposed toward evil than toward good, the supreme leaders are bloody minded; that is exactly how Nikita Khrushchev, one of my "supreme bosses" from my other life, looked to me, both when he was sober and when he was drunk. The Machiavellian man uses change and flexibility to stay on top, but the Soviet bloc leaders I knew were increasingly dogmatic and inflexible, culminating with Leonid Brezhnev, who acted like a mechanical puppet (as does Boris Yeltsin today).
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By A Customer on October 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Originally, I bought this book as a gift for my girlfriend, because she is a big fan of philosophy. I wasn't expecting much, but thought it might be a fun read.
Our first impression of Mr. Ledeen was that he was way out there. He has very strong opinions of how the world works. He loves Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher for instance. LOVES them. But after reading the book through, and then reading the original Machiavelli's "the prince," we determined that Michael Ledeen knew exactly what he was talking about!
We also decided to learn more about Michael Ledeen, so we went online. We went to a web site about him and learned that the man has a double Phd in Philosophy and history respectively. We found his e-mail address and send him a note, expressing our enjoyment of his book. He promptly replied BACK to us and explained his views on the George W. Bush presidency.
This book is fun, interesting, true to Machilavelli completely, and Mr. Ledeen makes a good comparison of the modern time with the time in which Machiavelli lived.
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Format: Paperback
When you read a book like this, it can be judged by the facts you know to be true or false. The author made serious factual error regarding that Bill Gates invent the BASIC programming language (like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet). His comment, "...Mata Hari have famously been exceptional espionage agents", is grossly wrong. Mata (Margaretha Gertrude Mac Leod) was a prostitute who worked for the Germans and the French. She did a bad job at it, both sides knew she was a double agent and in the end the French shot her. The rest was myth.

On the other hand, the commandment "thou shalt not murder" is correct versus "thou shalt not kill". The Hebrew words for murder and kill are only slightly different, but absolutely unambiguous. And unlike the New Testament, the Torah has not gone through tons of alterations. There are other facts that are easily verified or refuted.

So why read it? If you read "The Prince", you better know your history (but I strongly recommend you read it first). Michael A. Ledeen uses modern day examples to help illustrate Machiavelli's insights. This should make it much easier to understand. But if you wonder about the facts behind the example, do check it out yourself and don't take the authors words as Gospel.
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Format: Paperback
Much has been hyped of the neocon propensity for Straussian deception and omission -- the kind supposedly justified by a transcendent moral calculus -- and the parallels between this imperative, its rationales, and Machiavelli's logic all bear a "family resemblance". Nevertheless, Mike Ledeen has rarely come across as diabolical, not even when covering a genius famous for his explication of the darker side of statecraft.

Instead, Ledeen comes across as mildly senile, and disappointingly arrogant. This book, while being a peaen to Machiavelli, attempts to draw glorious parallels between Machiavelli and big egos in the American pantheon of not-so-profound men, like Bill Gates, just one of the "figurines" Ledeen holds aloft like a boy playing with a superman doll.

In the section 'How to Rule,' on page 117, Ledeen writes "Since it is the highest good, the defense of the country is one of those extreme situations in which a leader is justified in commiting evil" -- the book is filled with passages like these, reminiscent of Strauss's maxim of "the noble lie", then interwoven with factual innacuracies (such as Ledeen's claim that Gates "invented" the Basic programming language).

I remember the fiasco around another book Ledeen wrote back in the eighties, one that claimed to uncover a vast world-wide global conspiracy by the Soviet Union. In the book, Ledeen claimed to have evidence that every terrorist group around the world was actually controlled by the USSR: so Abu Nidal and the IRA both collected their paychecks from the same paymaster, etc.
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