“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.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
How can you and I possibly use this leadership quote?
Our task is to drive change
As leaders, our job is to drive change. We must drive it in our businesses and we must drive it in ourselves. We know that if we are doing things the same way that we were doing them two years ago or even one year ago, we are not doing them very well.
Management is not leadership
Management is about different things. Management is about systems and meeting targets. Management is about producing acceptable results within known constraints and conditions. Leadership introduces change. Therefore, don’t confuse management with leadership.
Let us think about the leadership of change and look at the extended Machiavelli leadership quote:
“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. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries … and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
I trust you find this as powerful as I do. Machiavelli was born nearly 600 years ago and I find it the more powerful for that. As the French say, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.
For us in the 21st century, as leaders, we need to be aware that our task is change – what Machiavelli calls “a new order of things”. Never was this more true than now. We have all seen “lukewarm defenders” in those who would profit by the new order. We know that mankind does not “truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it”.
Famous Leadership Quotes: Reflect!
It is worth reflecting on the words of Machiavelli. Those of us who work in a corporate environment will easily relate to his very perceptive statement. How many times have we seen resistance to change? I would say every time, we see resistance, some strong and some very strong. Those who have an investment in the old order, those who even profit from it. Even those who can be considered “on-side” will resist change to a greater or lesser extent.
How to introduce change
So, how do we introduce change? How do we lead change? Be clear that a strong structure is necessary. We must decide where we want to go, encourage a committed bunch of influential people within the organisation that it is the right way to go. Then, we must make sure that the day and we communicate why we want to be. We need a broad commitment from the people within the organisation. We need to show them the reasons for wanting to be where we need to go and we need to show them the benefits, preferably by some short-term wins. We must push hard to make sure that the changes start to take proper root in the culture of the organisation. We must continually push again and again despite the setbacks which will come. Yes, I wrote it all in one paragraph! Believe me, that is a life’s work! Change is not easy. Plenty of famous leadership quotes phrase it in plenty of different versions.
It’s simple – but it’s not easy
The next time some consultant offers to charge you twenty grand to help you implement change, read Machiavelli’s quote again, read my little paragraph above and think about doing it yourself. It’s simple – but it’s not easy. Of course, if you would feel better if you pay somebody twenty grand, drop me an e-mail…
You know what? Once you are there, don’t sit down for long. You will need to be changing again very shortly!
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