Monday, October 17, 2005

Machiavelli and Leadership: Is it Applicable in Libraries?

Machiavelli and Leadership: Is it Applicable in Libraries? This is another paper which resulted from the doctoral program I am in right now. I was assigned to read Machiavelli on Modern Leadership by Michael A. Ledeen and apply the concepts to my job. This is the result.

I was very surprised to discover how much Machiavellian thought is different from what I thought it was. Machiavelli supported freedom and only advocated using nasty tactics for the greater good. He also demanded virtuous leaders.

From the site:

How does one enter into evil in a library as a leader? Should it be done? If one wants to apply Machiavelli in a library setting, it would be hard to ignore this concept as it is so central to The Prince. Clearly, much of the evil that Machiavelli envisioned (murder, war, imprisonment, torture, etc.) are not options for library leaders. As such, this has to be looked at a little more metaphorically. What would constitute entering into evil for a library leader who obeyed all the laws at the same time?

One example might be to terminate a disruptive employee by not renewing a contract or denying tenure. If the employee was productive and did a good job, it would be unfair (and hence an act of entering into evil) to remove him from his job for being disruptive. However, if the removal restores harmony to the library, it may well be justified. Another evil act that might be justified for the greater good is to lie to a vendor who is peddling an expensive product that is needed. The library leader can lie and claim that he will not purchase the product unless the price is lowered substantially even if he intends to purchase the product regardless of price.

Entering into evil is fraught with peril. The library leader should only do so in a manner that is careful and reflective. A good phrase might be as Kierkegaard called "fear and trembling." And once the library leader is in the presence of evil, he must leave it as soon as he can. Determining what is an evil act in a library, and when it should be contemplated for the greater good, it is a tricky matter but one that every library leader will have to face repeatedly in a career.

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