The other day I came across a website with some fun personality quizzes. I’m not sure how credible the quizzes really are, but according to the test results I’m “Somewhat Machiavelli.” My test summary stated the following:
“You’re not going to mow over everyone to get ahead…
But you’re also powerful enough to make things happen for yourself.
You understand how the world works, even when it’s an ugly place.
You just don’t get ugly yourself – unless you have to!”
The key word in the Machiavellian characterization is manipulation. At least according to Abdul Aziz, associate professor of management at the Baltimore school in a recent Wall Street Journal article. A Machiavellian person, Prof. Aziz explains, is emotionally detached, prone to deceive, and believes that the end justifies the means, even if it is not morally right. In fact, Niccolo Machiavelli, who condensed his views on politics in The Prince, argued famously that “it is far better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both.”
So, am I really cut out to be a Chief Marketing Officer? I have to ask that question because it seems to me that “somewhat Machiavellian” could imply that I bring neither fear nor love to the executive table. Or in other words, no influence, and where does that leave a CMO during a C-level meeting?
Speaking of influence, what might Dale Carnegie (How To Win Friends & Influence People) have to say about the results? Few historical figures are as divisive and polarizing as Niccolo Machiavelli, and few are as quoted as Dale Carnegie when it comes to leadership and influence.
Let’s examine three key executive competency areas to see how Machiavelli and Carnegie might actually interplay:
1. Strategy: To quote Machiavelli, “I’m not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.” Hmmm… actually that sounds a lot like a typical CMO! But you are going to need to manage your ego. Your peers on the senior staff are likely to consist of high-energy, strong-willed, and perhaps difficult-to-manage professionals. Such people have a tendency to work towards their own agenda. So, before you push your bold new social media program forward, ask your peers for their ideas. And then don’t be so quick with your own opinions. To quote Carnegie, “Be a good listener. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.”
2. Processes: Machiavelli believed, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” One of the most difficult responsibilities of any C-level position is to be the lead person for process change. Regardless of how good a decision is, it will never work if employees fail to get behind it or, worse, if they sabotage your efforts. People who are involved in decisions are more likely to go the extra mile to make the decision a success. Or better yet, as Carnegie stated, “Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.”
3. Technology: Machiavelli also believed, “Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” Leaders must learn to quickly adapt in a fast-changing world powered by technology in order to avoid corporate disaster. Have your peers stayed up-to-date on the latest knowledge in your industry? Do they make it easy for their reports to go to seminars and otherwise advance their education? If not, Carnegie would likely have coached you to “Appeal to the nobler ideas” in order to win them to your way of thinking.
Where do you fall on the Machiavellian scale? How could you apply a little advice from Carnegie to win friends and gain influence? We look forward to hearing from you.
Alan See is the Chief Marketing Officer at Alan See CMO Temps, LLC. He has written this guest post for the Networking Exchange Blog.