Philosophy Leadership According to Plato Term Paper

Total Length: 1228 words ( 4 double-spaced pages)

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Unlike Plato, Machiavelli had a much less idealistic view of leadership in mind. or, rather, his view of leadership was not wrapped up in a personal view of ethics and virtue. Plato obviously believed, after all, that the best leader would be the wisest and the most moral. It was these qualities that should be encouraged and these qualities that would make said individual a superior leader. Machiavelli argued implicitly that this was an erroneous understanding of human nature and the characteristics that constitute excellent leaders. At the heart of Machiavelli's description of the perfect leader, his idealized prince, is the argument that personal virtue and ethics are completely unrelated to public success (Kemerling). Hence, from this we see that the good leader will not necessarily be the same as the virtuous individual. This assertion stands in stark contrast to Plato's argument about the nature of leadership and highlights the way in which leaders generally operate in real world situations, instead of how we would like them to act.

Machiavelli based this argument on the quite straightforward assumption that no matter how virtuous or ethical one leader acts, there is no way to guarantee that all other leaders or involved people will follow the same high moral code (Kemerling). Following individualized rules in politics, in other words, puts the leader at a significant disadvantage when compared with his or her peers. To be an excellent leader, according to Machiavelli, one must understand when and how to do the things virtuous and ethical individuals could never consider doing. Sometimes in order to achieve the goals of society, the goals of the group, or the goals of the individual, it is necessary to perform acts that can be considered immoral or unethical. It becomes more important that the leader appear to be virtuous than to actually be that way, so long as the leader is accomplishing the goals required of him or her. Unlike Plato's leader who placed virtue above all and used it as a guide to lead others, Machiavelli's leader is a shrewd manipulator of the situation at hand and will commit unethical acts if it means that those acts will enhance his or her control of the political situation in front of him. While the image of the Machiavellian leader is not idolized in our culture, it is difficult to argue with the effectiveness of the leadership model that Machiavelli proposes, no matter how ruthless we might perceive it to be.
The differences between Plato's and Machiavelli's models of leadership are striking and significant. The former argues in favor of individual virtue as the guiding principle of the ethical leader who places the needs of his followers ahead of his own. The latter flat out argues that such an approach misconstrues the very nature of leadership and its uses in society; one must instead maximize his or her own power at all times in order to enhance the odds that the leader's specific goals will be achieved. This schism between two of the greatest philosopher in the history of the West highlights our own contradictory feelings about leadership and leaders: at once we want effective leaders who will produce results (like Machiavelli's) but who are nonetheless reveered paragons of virtue (like Plato's).

Works Cited

Kemerling, Garth. "Machiavelli: Principality and Republic." Philosophy Pages. 27 Oct. 2001. 17 Nov. 2007

Korab-Karpowicz, W.J. "Plato's Political Philosophy." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Bilkent University. 2006. 17 Nov. 2007

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