In 1513, Machiavelli composed "The Prince" as a way to gain favor with the Medicis Family, the autocratic rulers of Florence, the book was dedicated to Lorenzo de Medici, whom Machiavelli hated; its model is Cesare Borgia, an undisputed, if healthily respected, tyrant. Machiavelli praised the way Borgia had acted swiftly, decisively and indeed ruthlessly in playing off France, Italian city-states and the papacy against each other, suppressing conspiracies and laying a strong foundation for the future. ( Rust, 1999)
This then was the background of "Il Principe", or "The Prince", in which Machiavelli describes and analyzes the methods by which an ambitious person may attain power, and then retain it through calculated ruthlessness, boundless charm, and ambiguous morality. This classic of political science has retained its relevance down the five centuries it has survived to come down to us, and leaders of various reputations have been acquainted with it, and consciously or sub-consciously followed its principles.
Modern leadership in the twentieth and twenty-first century are no exception, and examples of Machiavellian wisdom abound from Stalin and Hitler, to Ronald Reagan, Nixon and George Bush.
One of the most striking pronouncements that Machiavelli made was absolutely revolutionary in terms of accepting facts as they are, and not what they ought to be or portrayed to be in traditional political philosophies. He claims to talk about what really goes on behind the corridors of power and what a political aspirant should basically learn in order to get to the top. Because how one ought to live is so far removed from how one lives that he who lets go of what is done for that which one ought to do sooner learns ruin than his own preservation: because a man who might want to make a show of goodness in all...