Leadership Differences between Tao Te Ching and the Prince


LeadershipDifferences between Tao Te Ching and the Prince

Leadershipis an intricate art of guiding people towards achieving givenambitions. Humans use diverse leadership principles to accomplishtheir ambitions. Machiavelli proposed that administrative leadersshould use force and ruthlessness to attain order because the worldis naturally evil. On the other hand, Tzu proposed that leadersshould use passive administration techniques that involve the peoplesuch that they intervene when necessary. He argues that the world isinnately good hence, leaders can just do their work and sit backbecause the subjects can obey without coercion or restriction toachieve given standards. In my view, Machiavelli’s leadershipprinciples could deliver better results in both Renaissance andmodern era since humans are naturally stubborn, and require some formof coercion to motivate them towards giving their best. The objectiveof this essay is comparing the differences in leadership principlesas illustrated in both Machiavelli’s and Tzu’s classical texts(Machiavelli &amp Marriott, 2008).

ThePrince is a political article written by Niccolo Machiavelli. He wasa historian, politician, philosopher, humanist and diplomat duringthe Renaissance era. He served as a secretary to the second chanceryof the Florence Republic, the current Italy, for fourteen years fromthe year 1498 to 1512. While there, he provided advice on diplomaticand military affairs. Nicolo Machiavelli also contributed tocomedies, carnival songs, and poetry. His school of thoughtcontributed to the development of modern political science and inspecific political ethics. He wrote, “The Prince” in the 16thcentury, and it is one of his first works of modern philosophy. Hebased his leadership philosophy, Machiavellianism, on the premisethat the world is inherently evil (Machiavelli &amp Marriott, 2008).

Onthe contrary, Tao Te Ching, also known as the Laozi, is asixth-century Chinese text authored by Lao Tzu, the Sage. Theliterature is the foundation of several schools of thoughts includingLegalism, Confucianism, and the Chinese Buddhism. The term “Tao TeChing” means “the classic way of the path” or “the standardway of the power.” “Tao” means “the way.” It is used invarious situations to describe essential and unnamable course ofaction of the universe. “Te” means “virtue” or “thepersonal character.” It portrays the inner strength or integrity,which is used as a healing power. “Ching” means “traditional orthe standard way of the path”. Lao Tzu, leadership principlesdiffers from Machiavellianism because he believed that the world isintrinsically good (Tzu, 2013).

NicoloMachiavelli got inspiration to write “The Prince” masterpieceafter the Medici recovered power. Since Nicolo held no politicaloffice, he opted to share his views on the importance of having astrong leader who is not afraid of using ruthlessness on both hissubjects and enemies to gain power. He also acquired his inspirationfrom the Italian states, which lacked unification hence, they werevulnerable to other unified states such as France. According toNicollo, a Prince should dedicate his entire energy towards readingliterature associated with the art of war.

“Aprince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anythingelse for his study, than war and its rules and discipline for thisis the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of suchforce that it not only upholds those who are born princes, but itoften enables men to rise from a private station to that rank(Machiavelli, 2008).”

Isupport this premise because citizens or former aides lead manytyranny administrations in the present world to ousted leaders.Similarly, junior military officers often succeed to acquire highprofile political seats such as the presidency using coup d`etats.Likewise, junior employees with the ambition of achieving seniorcorporate positions occasionally initiate leadership wrangles inbusinesses with the intention of putting pressure on present leadersto resign. In the contemporary business environment, Machiavellianismexists in the form of completion for knowledge, innovation, andprogressive business ideas. Leaders should be actively involved inthe execution of duties so that they can understand the challengesand improvement the employees require to be motivated (Bonnici,2011).

Incontrast, the Taoist was living in a feudal society in which law hadbegun to be codified and the government as it was increasinglybecoming bureaucratic. Taoism called for the abolishment of thegovernment and believed that everything could remain in harmony ifeveryone could have the freedom to do as he or she wishes. TheTaoists were embedded in the ancient Chinese culture and had anattitude of respectful trust to the human nature. They lacked theChristian idea of original sin. They believed that human beingsposses an inner tendency to being and doing well. The goodness of thehuman nature is depicted in the feelings and the reaction of peoplewho sees a child who falls into a well. Taoism is about establishinga voluntary order where there is no use of laws and regulations.Taoism is interested in nature and seeks to identify with it. Itpromotes female values, which entail passivity and openness. Theauthor aims at portraying humans as obedient when they are followingno rules. Instead, he claims that a master is supposed to provideknowledge to the subjects, and then letting them decide on theapproach they would use to address the issues.

“TheMaster leads/ by emptying people`s minds/ and filling their cores,/by weakening their ambition/ and toughening their resolve./ He helpspeople lose everything/ they know, everything they desire,/ andcreates confusion/ in those who think that they know (Tzu, 2013).”

Theorigin of the prince is set against the conditions during the periodof the Italian Renaissance. It was a period of high activity in art,science and literature. Italy was the center of knowledge achievementin the west. Scholars from all over the world visited Italy to enjoyits atmosphere. It was so intense to the extent that up to date, theaccomplishments of Italian artists and thinkers are prized for theirmagnificence and creativity. It was a period composed of religiouschange. Pope Alexander VI exemplified rampant dishonesty andcorruption leadership traits in the Catholic Church. The pope causedcriticism against the Catholic Authority. In Germany, a protestantreformation started. Politics were also brewing. The dispersed feudalstates of the ancient period were gradually uniting under centralizedadministration, and the outlines of the future European nations werebeginning to become visible. There was an emerging concept of thestate. This made war a valuable tool to any ruler as they struggledto create unified nations. Italy on the other hand faced repeatedinvasions and duplicity from within. This created intense resentmentfrom Many Italian thinkers (Machiavelli &amp Marriott, 2008). Hence,Machiavelli was forced to create an impassioned plea for a strongleader so that he could free Italy from domination. He describesharsh leaders as highly efficient.

“Wehave not seen great things done in our time except by those who havebeen considered mean the rest have failed (Machiavelli &ampMarriott, 2008).”

ThePrince is a complete analysis of how to acquire and preserveadministrative power in either business or a political position. Itdiscusses the conduct of great men and the principles, which areapplied by princely governments. Machiavelli states that a princemust have his attention on the military affairs for him to remain inpower. He identifies that there have to be four types of armies.First is the mercenaries they are the hired soldiers. Machiavellitermed them as dangerous and unreliable. Second are the auxiliariesthey are the troops that are loaned to a prince by his fellow rulers.These are termed as dangerous and unreliable too. Third are theNative troops who are composed of one’s own citizens or subjects,Machiavelli recommends these as the most reliable and desirable kind.He added that there are the mixed troops composed of one’s owncitizens and the mercenaries. They are considered less desirable thana completely indigenous army is (Machiavelli &amp Marriott, 2008).

InThe Prince, Machiavelli describes the characters and the behaviorsthat a prince should possess and exhibit to the people. First headvocated for a prince to be stingy than generous. Second, headvocated a cruel prince rather than a merciful one. Third, headvised that a prince would not be doing wrong if he breaks promisesthat would be against the prince’s interests. Fourth, he advisedthat princes should avoid making themselves hated and despised.However, according to him, goodwill of the people was a betterdefense than any other kind of fortress. Finally, he advised thatprinces should aim at having the best and wise advisors and avoidflatterers (Machiavelli &amp Marriott, 2008).

Incontrast, Tao Te Ching uses epigrams, paradoxes, and repetition toillustrate consistent ideas. Living in harmony with the Tao isreferred to as Taoism. Its main aim is emphasizing action throughnon-action, naturalness, simplicity and spontaneity. The Tao is soparticular about the use of force. It provides that if people useforce whether physical or moral to improve themselves or the world,they will end up wasting energy and weakening themselves. It providesthat force lead to loss of strength. Further, it advises that thosewho cause wars will experience similar result.

“Aviolent man will die a violent death and goes on to depict thatgiving way is the best way to overcome, “under heaven/ nothing ismore soft and yielding than water yet/ for attacking the solid andstrong/ the supple can overcome the stiff (Tzu, 2013).”

Thecall for gentle peacefulness by the Taoist is not a form of defeatistsubmission but rather a call for the creative and effective use ofenergy (Tzu, 2013).

TheTao advises people to practice non-action, “Work without doing”The Taoists do not propose inaction in the sense of inactivity, butthey are in opposition to the activity that is against nature. Theyare not praising idleness, but they advocate the work without effort,worry, and difficulty. They advocate work that goes with, and notagainst, the little things. The authors recommend that if people canpractice in action appropriately, they would be cured of the coerciveaspect of the work. The attitude towards work would change from theuse of results to a focus on the essential value of work. Further, itadds that people would stop trying to avoid work and instead theywould view it as a play. It emphasizes this thought by stating,

“Whenactions are performed without unnecessary speech, people say we didit (Tzu, 2013).”

Taoismputs emphasis on three treasures. The first treasure is pity, thesecond is frugality, and the third is refusal to be foremost of allthings under heaven. For pity, the Tao advises that only those thathave pity are truly able to be brave. Further, that only those thatare frugal will have the ability to profuse and that only those thatshall refuse to be foremost of all things will become chief of allministers. According to the Tao, at any moment, ones bravely is notbased on their pity, their frugality or their vanguard in the back.It declares that the Heaven arms with pity, those whom it would notsee destroyed. According to the Taoists, nature was their primaryinterest their understanding of the universe had an importantconsequence to the society. There was an emerging system of ethicsand politics. However, there were no absolute Taoist values thatcould be described as good or bad. For the Tao, the best art ofliving was in simplicity and non-assertion and creative play (Tzu,2013).

Theprince is an administrative commentary and not a work of fiction.Machiavelli uses characters that are drawn from the existingpolitical and social events, at that time, as well as from past andancient characters. His individuals include real political leadersthat existed during his time. He mentions characters such asFrancesco Sforza who was a Mercenary general and became the Duke ofMilan, Ludovico Sforza who was also called &quotIl Moro,&quot theMoor. He was the Son of Francesco Sforza and the Duke of Milan, andhe is said to have encouraged King Charles VIII of France to initiatehis invasion to Italy. Caterina Sforza Riario who was Ludovico`sniece, the dishonest daughter of Gian Galeazzo Sforza. He alsomentions the ruler of the cities of Forli and Imola He was called&quotThe Amazon of Forli.&quot Further he mentions the Borgiafamily which is composed of: Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) he isportrayed as corrupt and an immoral leader of the church who openlymaneuvered his many dishonest children into positions of power. Inaddition, Cesare Borgia who was Alexander VI`s son, Duke ofValentinois in France, who was a conqueror of the Romagna state inItal he was used as Machiavelli`s chief example of an ideal Prince(Machiavelli &amp Marriott, 2008).

Incontrast, the Tao Te Ching does not convey the truth as per se. Itdoes not teach anything by reading it however, the philosophyportrays to the mind an indication of what is impossible to describe.This is true for the ancients and what they were unable to portray isboth dead and gone hence what people read at present are theirremains and sediments. Chapter 65 states,

“Ofthose who had excelled in using the Tao Te Ching, they did notenlighten but instead they deceived the people.”

TheTao explains that people are so hard to govern because they are tooclever hence, the only way is by lying to them (Tzu, 2013).

TheTao has used the term Empire throughout. This has been used to meanan external political territory and in a figurative way, the internalterritory. The Tao teaches that whenever someone feels that theirexternal perceptions are providing an image of their internalterritory. They shall be able to identify where their strangesimilarities are running. It further explains that the weightallocated to whatever someone sees arises within the person and isthe center of understanding (Tzu, 2013).

Aboutgovernance, the Prince provides that there were two types of stateswhich included the republics and the principalities. Machiavelli doesnot discuss the republics but illustrates how the principalities areacquired and governed. Further, he stated that principalities areeither inherited or new. Either new principalities are captured froma ruler’s existing territory, or they are completely new. Newprincipalities are the ones that have been ruled by a prince or ashaving been acquired through luck or through strength. Further,Machiavelli added that hereditary principalities, which are ruled bythe prince in a fair manner, are easy to maintain. This is madepossible by the fact that tradition keeps the prince’s positionstable as long as he avoids getting people to despise him (Bonnici,2011).

Incontrast, the Tao Te Ching is not concerned with giving Machiavellianadvice to rulers. It does not offer rulers with the art of governing.According to the Tao principles, the government does not govern atall. It sees the government as a source of all evils. The Taoprovides an anarchist manifesto through his assumption thatelimination of bureaucracies would enhance everyone’s personalresponsibility. In my view, Lao Tzu’s leadership principles couldneither deliver effective results in both Renaissance and modern eraas a leader is only supposed to intervene when total failure occurs.On the other hand, Machiavelli insists that orderliness, peace andstability come through strict direction stipulation. Similarly, amanager of a big a business empire should give direction to the staffand supervise the work using hierarchical administration to achievesuccess (Bonnici, 2011). In conclusion, Machiavelli’s leadershipprinciples could deliver better results in both renaissance andmodern era since humans are naturally stubborn, and require some formof coercion to motivate them towards giving their best.


Machiavelli,N., &amp Marriott, W. (2008).&nbspTheprince.Waiheke Island: Floating Press.

Tzu,L. (2013).&nbspTaoTe Ching Six Translations.&nbspLanham:Start Publishing LLC.

Bonnici,C. A. (2011). Creatinga successful leadership style: Principles of personal strategicplanning.Lanham: Rowman &amp Littlefield Education.

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