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What Makes a Competent Political Decision-Maker or Leader Essay

At present, efficient and productive leadership is, as a rule, understood as indispensable for success of any organization. That is why constant development of leaders and improvement of leadership styles have become the primary focus of research and investigations. Despite the diversity of indispensable leadership qualities, the majority of scholars agree upon the fact that no company needs a “Lone Ranger”, because the primary purpose of effective leader is to motivate employees working in a company or organization. The paper is aimed to establish and analyze the attitudes of Plato and Machiavelli towards competent and responsible decision-makers and leaders. In other words, the main purpose of the study is to discuss and generalize different dimensions of leadership, determined by Plato and Machiavelli on perfect leadership and productive governance.

Since the dawn of human civilization, political activists, philosophers, scientists, and psychologists have issued extensive works on the phenomena on leaders, leadership, and leadership styles. However, in spite of this, there is still no general consent among scholars as to reasons and circumstances that explain “leader – follower” phenomenon (Henman 2014).

According to Plato, only “superior” people should be provided with an opportunity to become effective decision-makers and leaders. Plato is sure that at the moment of birth the majority of people are subjected to subordination and subjugation, while the others are nominated to direct, to govern, and to rule. Machiavelli emphasizes that humans are obliged to follow those individuals who possess the ability to organize power and motivate the workers (Henman 2014).

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It is rather important to emphasize that the influence of the Greek philosopher Plato on the theory of leadership is enormous. Scientists estimate that the roots of Western administrative and political thinking go back to the literature works provided by Plato and Machiavelli. Despite the fact that significant parts of their works were lost in the course of time, both philosophers will definitely remain irreplaceable as thinkers and men of wisdom (Takala 1998).

The Greek philosopher Plato is the author of numerous well-known theories and ideas on the topic of leadership. According to Plato, wise people should guide and rule, and the ignorant are required to listen to them and to follow. In other words, natural leaders should lead, and natural slaves are born to remain slaves till the end of their lives. The works of Plato make attempts to estimate who should rule the state and who should be supreme. Plato makes a conclusion that only “the best”, “the wittiest”, and “the born governor” may be given a unique chance to command and pass decisions that influence the rest of society. On the contrary, “the worst”, “the laziest”, “the most useless”, and “the born follower” need to listen to the commands and decisions of the leaders (Kezar 2004).

Moreover, Plato makes numerous attempts in order to discover the paradoxes of such phenomena as democracy and freedom. The Greek philosopher Plato and his proponents come to conclusion that different forms and types of the theory of sovereignty create analogous incompatibilities and inconsistencies. Plato is convinced that almost all theories of sovereignty are ambiguous and paradoxical. For example, the society may choose “the cleverest” as a ruler. However, “the wisest” may decide that not they, but “the majority” should control, guide, rule, and make decisions. It is rather important to analyze the notion of “natural leaders” defined by Plato. According to the theories on leadership provided by Plato, a “natural leader” is not obliged to control or to lead followers (Kezar 2004).

On the contrary, the proponents of the leader should feel the need to follow the leader. Furthermore, a “natural leader” should be appreciated as a “heart”, not as a “head”, demonstrating love and respect towards the followers and co-workers. Besides, a “natural leader” encourages rather than demands or orders. Plato confirms that only few individuals are naturally born leaders. “Natural leaders”, according to the point of view of the Greek philosopher, are independent but yet responsible for their followers. Plato stresses the fact that such qualities as reliability, prudence, courage, and wisdom are beneficial for ideal leaders and decision-makers. Plato interpreted the phenomenon of leadership as a system of beneficial features of character, behaviors, and traits. Moreover, Plato believes that leaders are required to demonstrate personal commitment to their followers. Therefore, ideal decision-makers should be responsible and respond immediately to the critical events, situations, and contexts around them that are permanently altering and modifying (Kezar 2004).

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Plato argues that an ideal decision-maker needs to sacrifice his or her personal self-interests. In the book Republic, the Greek philosopher states that “in the city of good people, the citizens are obliged to fight in order to avoid leadership”. Besides altruistic motives and stimuli, Plato believes that persistence, hard work, and gratitude characterize productive decision-makers. According to Plato, many people accept the responsibilities of a leader because of the fear of punishment. Moreover, the book Republic, written by Plato, states that if an individual does not have a wish to command and to rule, then the worst punishment that can be imposed on him or her will be to be controlled and ruled by someone else. Additionally, because of the fear to be guided and ruled by extremely strict and enthusiastic leader, many persons become leaders and decision-makers by themselves. Plato writes in his works that many people feel comfortable and safe with individuals who are unwilling and hesitant to lead and to bear responsibility for the others (Ciulla 2003).

Moreover, Plato repeatedly tries to prove that since ancient times, people were afraid to be controlled by persons too eager to lead. Individuals who are excessively enthusiastic and willing to lead are sometimes dangerous, because their excitement and agitation may prevent them from assessment and understanding of enormous responsibilities of leadership. Plato tells his followers that in case leadership is not only immediate self-interest of people it is in their long-term interests. According to the point of view of Plato, the primary purpose of every leader is to be honest and fair, because just people are happier, and to influence co-workers and associates in a positive way (Ciulla 2003).

In most of his works, Plato describes interconnections between leadership and morality. Good leaders should not neglect or ignore the interests of followers. The aim of morality in leadership, according to the Greek philosopher, is to control and to follow the missions and aspirations of the proponents. In case leaders do not reject the idea of following the proponents, they are doing their job with responsibility. On the contrary, when leaders follow only their private goals and missions, they will definitely fail at motivating the proponents. As a result, moral values, ethics, and self-sacrifice, according to Plato, stimulate the leaders and decision-makers to do things that do not correspond with their self-interest. Plato concludes that in case a leader refuses to pay attention to the interests of the city and its citizens, they may be regarded not only inefficient, but irresponsible and unethical (Ciulla 2003).

The Plato’s theory of ideal leader is based on “head” that is wise as well as virtuous. It is extremely important to emphasize that the Greek philosopher Plato has an opportunity to observe the details and peculiarities of leadership in the process of several trips to city-state to Syracuse. After coming back to Athens, Plato makes a conclusion that the form of governance and ruling in Syracuse was unstable, ineffective, and disastrous. On the basis of his experience, he decides to write Republic. Plato describes in Republic that people characterized by the highest and the most valuable qualities should rule the state. Plato supports the basic idea that effective decision-maker and leader should be developed through education. Scientists and researchers state that academy of Plato may be characterized as a leadership school. Scholars estimate that during his lifetime, Plato visited Syracuse for three times. Documents prove that after the third disastrous visit Plato completely alters his views on leaders and leadership in general. For instance, he states that the ability to cope with city’s affairs is extremely complicated. Moreover, he writes that it is almost impossible to become an ideal leader and decision-maker without loyal friends and reliable followers. For a relatively long period of time, Plato loses confidence that leaders may perfected and the theory of leadership may be improved. As a result, several trips to Syracuse provide him with a unique chance to assess that leaders, as a rule, share the same strengths and weaknesses as their proponents and followers. Furthermore, he understands that truth and loyalty are extremely inevitable in the theory of effective leadership (Ciulla 2003).

Despite the fact that the theory of leadership of Plato is idealistic, the views of the Greek philosopher ensure fundamental ethical and moral peculiarities of leadership. Plato emphasizes that followers should not always rely only on leaders, but on the laws. Additionally, well thought-out rules, restrictions, and regulations are written to protect and to ensure safety from irresponsible and unethical leaders. As a result, Plato makes numerous successful attempts in order to persuade the future generations that ethical leaders need to be characterized by such fundamental features as care, love, respect, honesty, and fairness in the spheres of constantly changing organizational and global contexts (Ciulla 2003).

Niccolo Machiavelli’s theories, as well as those of Plato, are aimed to establish effective principles that contribute to the phenomenon of competent decision-maker and leader. Machiavelli believes that there are two productive types of ruling: governing by the individual, which tends to be extremely effective during the time of civic decline and corruption; governing by the people during the time of economic stability or growth (Harris 2010).

Niccolo Machiavelli is an Italian writer in the sphere of politics, whose literary works, including The Prince, are highly controversial and criticized by politics and philosophers. One of his famous writings, The Prince, has altered the approaches to the spheres of leaders and leadership strategies. At present, numerous scholars treat Machiavelli as modern thinker and political writer. In his works, the author provides pieces of advice to rulers on productive methods and strategies of government. It is rather important to note that the Italian political writer, as distinct from Plato, emphasizes that politics is not based on fostering and developing virtue, but on safety and security of its citizens. However, both Plato and Machiavelli are convinced that powerful political leadership should be concentrated in the hands of the few decision-makers or governors (Fuentes 2008).

According to Plato, loyalty, fairness, and trust are the main qualities of any leader or decision-maker. On the contrary, Machiavelli believes that the state needs to be founded on fear and coercion. Coercion, according to the point of view of Machiavelli, is extremely beneficial in authoritative decision-making process. For example, how many individuals would be willing to pay taxes in case it is a voluntary process? Coercion should be accepted and followed in corporate world by authoritative leaders. Plato believes that honesty and loyalty characterize good leaders. To counterbalance it, Niccolo Machiavelli affirms that a leader should be obliged to do everything, even to sacrifice in order to ensure safety, security, and stability. In majority of his works Plato pays attention to the phenomena of ethics and moral values that should be acquired by leaders in order to carry the responsibility for followers and opponents. By conrast, Machiavelli stresses that morality slows down the process of decision-making, and inevitably leads to complete failure (Fuentes 2008).

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Scientists estimate that Niccolo Machiavelli is drastically different from his predecessors because he intends to analyze the ways humans really live as contrasted with the ways they ought to live. Machiavelli believes that such features as selfishness, risk-taking, and even aggressiveness should characterize successful leaders. In case these features of character and traits are cultivated, developed, and efficiently used, a decision-maker or a leader will definitely reach good results (Fuentes 2008).

Moreover, Niccolo Machiavelli analyzes the influence of luck and fortune on progress of leaders. The author argues that despite weaknesses and failures, good luck can be regarded as a unique chance to direct, guide, and motivate proponents and followers. Machiavelli does not believe in absolutes. On the contrary, he stresses that everything and everyone in this world is unstable and replaceable. In order to maintain control and reputation, an effective and highly productive leader should adapt to this constantly changing society. Self-confidence, adaptation, and flexibility will definitely create the example of an “ideal leader” or a “competent decision-maker”. Moreover, Machiavelli describes in one of his most famous works the interactions among the leader and his followers. In Machiavelli’s point of view, a leader does not necessarily need to maintain a friendly contact with followers, as Plato suggests. The primary purpose of the leader is to preserve unconstrained atmosphere and to create a so-called attachment with proponents and followers. However, followers should have the feeling of fear and dependence on their leader (Fuentes 2008).

As a result, the more scholars explore the features and traits of competent decision-makers and ideal leaders, the better they will understand the phenomenon of leadership and the efficiency of leadership styles. A richer understanding of features and peculiarities of leaders contributes to improvement of “leader – follower” relationships and interactions. The works of Plato and Machiavelli play an integral role in the analysis of benefits of competent and effective leaders. According to Plato, “competent leader” would respect loyalty and truth, be moderate with money, neither cunning nor narrow-minded. “Ideal leaders”, according to Plato, should possess the traits of inborn leadership and acquired wisdom and cleverness. In addition, Machiacelli’s The Prince presents a considerable contribution to the field of politics and to the study of leadership.


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