Lead by love or fail by fear:

As manager of a competitive cultural dance team on campus, I made several parallels with Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, specifically regarding the methods of leadership. The dance team captain, let’s call him Adam, can be compared to a prince, while the dancers are all his subjects. Machiavelli, throughout the Prince, gives political advice in regards to how a leader can maintain his kingdom without his subjects rebelling. Numerous concepts emphasized by Machiavelli affect a person leading any type of group, including a captain leading his dance team while keeping all the dancers satisfied as a prince machiavelli blog picwould do for his subjects. If the dancers are not satisfied, they will refuse to dance, affecting the general performance of the team negatively. If the team performs negatively, other teams, which can be seen as other kingdoms, will gain more glory at competitions. If other teams win competitions, it is analogous to an outside kingdom gaining political power in the form of military action.

Machiavelli in Chapter XVII claims that it if one cannot evoke both fear and love, it is better to be feared than loved. The discussion of whether it is better to be feared than loved causes great controversy, and can be applied to many situations. Assuming Machiavelli’s theory, Adam would hypothetically aim to instill fear within his dancers and teammates. He would act rude and use punishment to improve the team’s performance. The dancers would have no fun while dancing, and eventually lose all respect for Adam. They would simply obey as any fearful subjects would. This principle that Machiavelli is infamous for preaching would not work at all in a modern dance team. Adam in reality is a great leader, not because he instills fear, but because he instills love and respect. Every team member looks up to him as both a dancer and a leader. They push themselves and work hard in an effort to please someone they have respect for, as the American colonists did for George Washington.george washington blog pic

Machiavelli may have given intelligent advice on numerous topics, but being part of a dance team on campus has made me realize that political advice can never be taken too stringently. It is better to instill love than fear, because love induces respect, while fear induces hatred. This principle will work better for the success of the dance team, and proves that political opinions of any sort must be adjusted based on the scenario being presented. Machiavelli wrote the dance team bloc picPrince centuries ago when times were drastically different. His political advice cannot be primarily used to base decisions for any leader. Though he does offer several points that may prove useful for a leader, in my personal experiences, it is better to avoid his advice when leading a dance team.army leader blog pic


4 thoughts on “Lead by love or fail by fear:

  1. I want to agree with you that it is better to have a loving and fun leader to rule a club, government, etc., however, from my own personal experience, I have to disagree. In high school, I was a member of the Mock Trial team for four years, and I had three coaches. The first two coaches, Mr. Z and Mr. B, were very kind men who barely criticized us. The team loved these coaches for we always felt good about ourselves when they coached us. Although we loved them, we did not improve our skill because our coaches did not properly criticized us. Also, we did not respect them as much because we knew we could get away with poor performance in front of them.On the other hand, my other coach, Greg, was terrifying. He was brutally honest and instilled fear into each and every member of the team. We deeply respected him because we feared him, and therefore, we took his advice to heart and truly improved. This situation proves that it is better to be feared than loved, because only than can you achieve success and get work done. But perhaps the theory that it is better to be loved than feared is a situational theory and only works sometimes. Either way, I believe that the theory is very effective.


  2. I personally agree with your main point of your post which is that a leader should instill elements of love and fellowship before inducing fear like tactics. Across many current occupational fields, business leaders are turning to this form of leadership in order to galvanize their respective “soldiers”. An example of this would be the Founder of Detroit Based Quicken Loans, Dan Gilbert. This past summer I interned at Bedrock Real Estate, a subset of Quicken Loans. While working there, Dan was extremely approachable and believed in a family like atmosphere with a company that has over 10,000 employees. Machiavelli obviously would have hated Dan Gilbert strategies, but as you said “The Prince” was written thousands of years ago and the culture of leading has clearly evolved.

    However, while I agree with your point in a current setting, Fear can still be applied as a leadership technique in today’s society. An example of this would be Roger Goodell of the NFL. Ever since taking over for Paul Tagliabue as Comissioner of the NFL, Goodell has opted for a stern, rigid approach attempting to gain the trust and respect of the players and executives in his league. Recently, his approach has backfired due to the scandals and investigations being conducted throughout the NFL. For this reason, I am tending to believe that your argument has a growing clout in today’s society. Furthermore, I think this is a beneficial post in understanding further today’s political atmosphere vs. the past and how all theories are forever changing.


  3. I also agree that for a dance team it is better to be loved than to be feared, but that is because the dancers love to dance and have the motivation within them already. In a Principality, there are plenty of people who would commit crimes or go against the Prince because they believe it is the right thing to do, and so the Prince has to scare them out of it, since they could do wrong against a Prince they love. Even George Washington used a little bit of fear, because although the people loved him, they were terrified of what he could do, since he was able to defeat the British.


  4. I agree with your point that it’s important to be a fun and respectful leader. However, I do think Machiavelli has a valid point. As a captain of a sports team in high school, I know that it’s important for your “followers” to be a little afraid of you in order to gain their respect. There’s a difficult balance between fear and love.


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