Lowney characterizes Loyola as Machiavelli’s “polar opposite” (p. 32). On what, if any, leadership-relevant teachings do Machiavelli and Loyola nevertheless agree? What might Machiavelli argue in response to Lowney’s explanations for the success of the more than 450-year-old company that Loyola launched?
Word count: 750-1,000.
April 25, 2023
Week 8 Capstone Essay
Despite their many differences, Machiavelli and Loyola share fundamental principles in leadership, such as remaining adventurous and adaptable, continual growth in knowledge and resources, and gaining legitimate support from subordinates who believe in the greater goal. Both philosophers believe that building a dedicated team is more powerful than using coercion or monetary incentives. However, Machiavelli believes leaders should use any means necessary to secure their power, while Loyola focuses on empowering others to take the lead. Machiavelli may argue that Loyola’s company succeeds because it can adapt and make tough decisions in challenging situations rather than because of its general ethical principles.
In Machiavelli’s The Prince, he discusses the importance of leaders adapting to the times. He writes, “The cautious man, when it is time to turn adventurous, does not know how to do it, hence he is ruined; but had he changed his conduct with the times fortune would not have changed.” His point is that a successful leader dares to change and venture into the unknown when it appears safer and easier to cling to the familiar. Complacency brings about the chance of losing momentum.
In Chris Lowney’s book Heroic Leadership, he writes of Ignatius of Loyola and the religious organization he founded, “Nothing better illustrates the power of self-reinforcing principles than the reality of intense, constant change. Ingenuity-driven Jesuits embraced change” (Lowney, 2003, pp 246). For example, Bento de Goes ventured into the unknown and embraced change as he assimilated into the cultures he found himself. His trek did not produce anything notable, but because of his adventurous spirit, he spared others the time of making a wasted trip (Lowney, 2003, pp. 68-69).
Machiavelli discusses the importance of adapting the expectations to the situation. Leaders cannot expect everyone to like them, so the focus should “avoid the hatred of the most powerful” (Machiavelli, 1532, pp 97). Loyola would support this position as well. For example, the Jesuits ultimately adopted this mindset when facing swift opposition from the Portuguese, Spanish, and French states — even losing the support of Pope Clement XIV.
With nowhere to turn, two hundred Jesuits in Poland accidentally earned the support of Catherine the Great, who took the slice of land they were staying on and saw their talent in education and wanted to see that in her territories. She ignored the ruling of the Pope, and the Jesuits got another chance because of their ability to adapt quickly (Lowney, 2003, pp. 234-238). Furthermore, retaining the cooperation of the most powerful was what kept the Jesuits going when Juana of Austria requested admittance to the exclusively all-male organization. Loyola complied, but under the condition of it remaining a secret (Lowney, 2003, pp. 55-58). Loyola knew where he stood and adapted accordingly.
Each would agree on the importance of leaders focusing on continually growing knowledge and resources. Machiavelli writes, “Never in peaceful times stand idle, but increase his resources with industry in such a way that they may be available to him in adversity” (Machiavelli, 1532, pp 79). The keyword of the Jesuit philosophy is magis or “more.” Loyola and the Jesuits who follow him commit themselves to pursue more and aspire to improve, particularly in education, as demonstrated by their success. Jesuits tenaciously pursue their goals and continue to reevaluate and adjust their goals appropriately so they never get deterred by complacency.
Lastly, both Machiavelli and Loyola stress how critical it is to assemble a dedicated team whose support comes from a mutual belief in the greater goal rather than merely being motivated by monetary or other incentives. Machiavelli writes about mercenaries “They are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe” (Machiavelli, 1532, pp 67). When the time comes to prove their dedication, those only motivated by money or similar incentives will likely be absent from the occasion. Their support is minimal as they are not a true team player.
In his book, “Heroic Leadership,” Chris Lowney emphasizes the importance of mutual respect among team members in achieving organizational success. Lowney argues that organizations with a team that shares a common vision and respects each other tend to outperform those that do not (Lowney, 2003, p. 199). The leadership style of the Jesuits, on the other hand, is based on love rather than fear, as advocated by Machiavelli. However, the underlying principle remains the same: A successful organization rests on a team’s ability to remain united by mutual respect and a shared vision for the future.
Based on Machiavelli’s analysis, the Jesuits achieved success through persistent efforts rather than their beliefs or leadership style. Machiavelli’s perspective is grounded in the idea that people are primarily self-centered and prioritize their interests over the group’s interests. Therefore, he would disagree that leading with love is responsible for an organization’s triumph. Instead, Machiavelli would argue that an organization’s success comes from its ability to adapt and make difficult decisions. He might suggest that the Jesuits’ ability to outsmart their rivals has given them an advantage and kept them in the game.
To become an influential leader, it is imperative that one adopts a mindset of adaptability and embraces new experiences. We can achieve this by focusing on personal growth, continuous learning, and assisting team members in identifying their individual goals. This approach can create a motivating work environment where we drive employees to perform at their best rather than merely completing their assigned tasks. (915 words)
Lowney, C. (2009). Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World. Loyola Press.
Machiavell, N. (2023). The Prince. Global Publishers.