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Ferdinand Marcos And His Comparison to Confucius and Machiavelli (12/11/01)


The in depth look at Hartwick's Classic Leadership Cases has opened a new leaf in our understanding of leadership theory and practice by taking classical literature and applying it to contemporary leadership. Each case presents a situation in which a leader must take into consideration the fatality of wrong judgment, ethical and moral implications, and the degree of leadership one must apply to his or her constituents in order to lead them effectively. The fact that each one of these literatures is able to withstand the test of time is most impressive which begs them to be analyzed even more. These magnificent works of literature hold a very special characteristic which is the main reason why they are studied time and time again. Classical works of literature is able to transgress time because of the philosophical beliefs they encompass. The undermining element behind each literature is our inevitable quest to understand human nature and what causes human actions and emotions. Great writers such as Sophocles and Shakespeare have examined the factors which lead to human fallacy whether it be power, wealth, emotions, personal values, or societal norms. In dealing with human nature, leadership becomes the overwhelming entity in society which promises to direct people from chaos, organize a government, and secure survival. Survival is the key element in human nature, and as the case studies demonstrate, it is the reason why humans choose leaders. Therefore, the study of leadership is important to human survival, and the case studies are excellent in explaining different leadership styles throughout time. For if one understands the fallacies of others before him, one can take that knowledge, develop it, and use it to lead his or her constituents effectively.

The focus of this paper is on two specific case studies, The Analects of Confucius and Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince. After analyzing each case study and extracting the essence of leadership lessons in each one, the paper will proceed to explain how each lesson is important to leadership. Then, an application to a contemporary political leader, that being Ferdinand Marcos and his presidency, will be made in comparison to the leadership styles that is preached by Confucius and Machiavelli. The paper will conclude with a summation of the topics that are previously covered.

Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince


Niccolo Machiavelli is known for being a political philosopher, writer, historian, diplomat, and statesman. He is best known for his influential work, The Prince, which brought him a reputation of being associated with a corrupt government, praising amoral cynicism, and showing cunning wickedness typical of a devil. From this work several theoretical concepts are raised, Machiavellian and Machiavellianism views, as stated in The Prince. Overall, Machiavelli is misunderstood because people have judged him solely on The Prince, not taking into consideration his other works which include "Discourses on Livy," which explains his full political philosophy. Also, people fail to realize the state in which Italy was in at the time The Prince was written. Machiavelli wrote it in response to the frequent foreign invasions that were prevalent during his day, especially of the aristocratic Medici family who attacked Florence, abolished the powers of the previous government, and restored the Medici family to power. The Prince is different from other documents that were written at the time because it contained practical suggestions on how to deal with current, recurring problems of the period. Further, the other documents were more theoretical than practical which questioned the effectiveness when put into practice. The Prince presents a realistic account of the qualities needed for leadership success. While other documents recommend that a leader be honest, merciful, generous, and loyal, Machiavelli believed that these qualities are not at all effective for the political life. The Prince was written for Lorenzo Di Medici for the purpose of reacquiring his advisory position within the Medici government. Unfortunately, Lorenzo disagreed with the suggestions in the book, and Machiavelli was denied the position. Further, the reputation The Prince had established made people think his philosophy like the Medici. His reputation worsened after his death when his name, transformed to Machiavellian, now means a "corrupt government." In reality, Machiavelli was a true patriot and a political genius of his time.

Leadership Application:

In each chapter of The Prince, one will find one recurring theme in all of the chapters which suggests how a leader that is not wicked should practiced wickedness to rule effectively. In Chapter 8 Machiavelli states, "For injuries out to be done all at one time, so that being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer." And in Chapter 15 he also states, "Hence it is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity." Both statements imply that a leader must be in accordance with the principles of government in which political expediency is placed above morality and the use of craft and deceit to maintain the authority is vitally necessary. Machiavelli believes that an individual must commit to the good of the community and therefore place it above all morals and values. Cunning, deception, and dishonesty are all characteristics of a well-organized government according to The Prince.

Several leadership theories which relate to Machiavelli's work include the "Amoralist" View and the "Moralist" View. In the "Amoralist" view, deception and corruption within one's government or corporation is considered acceptable because amoralists believe that government and business have separate rules and standards to abide by. Therefore, personal values and norms do not matter. If the goal of one's government is re-election, that goal is paramount over everything else. Amoralists feel that the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the process in achieving that goal should not matter if the overall goal is attained. The Prince takes into account that it is passable to apply such a theory to the governed because people should support what is best for the community or state. In any form it is political success, and the most efficient way of achieving it, that really matters.

The "Moralist" view opposes the above position mainly because a moralist feels that governments and businesses are not so set off from everyday life that values and norms cannot be applied to each one. A moralist would say that leaders are individuals as well and are bound to the same moral and ethical implications as do the rest of the people living within a given community. Authority does not mean power because power comes from the governed. Machiavelli would disagree with the "Moralist" view because it does not satisfy what he feels are important qualifications of a good leader. He believes that a leader guided by morals is a weak and ineffective ruler and is bound for ruin.

Based on past leadership lessons, the leadership style as described by Machiavelli is indeed full of loopholes when applied to contemporary leadership. Although it is understood that Machiavelli wrote The Prince in a time of large-scale blackmail, violence and political conflicts, and invasion, it cannot be applied to the politics of today because doing so will, without a doubt, lead to a leader's downfall. This is not to say that deception and corruption no longer exists in governments, but political leaders are discouraged to use such tactics because of fear of impeachments, overthrows, and assassinations.

In applying effective leadership in any given situation, it is best to practice adaptive leadership. Adaptive leadership, as was discussed in Leadership Without Easy Answers by Ronald A. Heifetz, reminds leaders that there is a time and place for everything. A leader should lead according to what is available and around him or her. One must learn to step out of the box, out of traditional leadership roles, and apply his or her decisions to the consensus of the governed. Machiavelli declares, "One of the most efficacious remedies that a prince can have against conspiracies is not to be hated and despised by the people." Machiavelli and Heifetz agree that the ultimate blow to a leader's term in office is assassination. Therefore it is crucial that a leader be practical and adaptive in all his or her endeavors.

Another leadership lesson that can be drawn from The Prince is the importance to manage, or modulate, the level of distress within a given population. Ambassador Kamal reiterates the fact that a leader must function between the levels of sleeping and boiling points. When a leader steps beyond any of these points, a leader can loose constituents, overthrown, or assassinated. Machiavelli also realizes this when he says, "A prince to have the people friendly, otherwise he has no security in adversity." A contemporary example of ruling beyond the boiling point will be discussed in detail in the failed presidency of Ferdinand Marcos in the later sections.

The Analects of Confucius


Confucius was one of the most influential figures in Chinese history. He was a well-known leader in philosophy and made theories about the law, life, and the government. Confucius was famous for his philosophy because he made wise sayings in ancient China that helped many people learn about nature, the world, and the human behavior. He also helped the government and the emperor by teaching them lessons on how the emperor should rule his kingdom successfully. During his time, when feudalism degenerated in China and intrigue and vice were rampant, Confucius deplored the contemporary disorder and lack of moral standards. He came to believe that the only remedy was to convert the people once more to the principles and precepts of the sages of antiquity. His theories and principles were spread throughout China by his disciples, and soon many people learned from his wise sayings. One of his rules said, "If you governed your province well and treat your people kindly, your kingdom shall not lose any war. If you govern selfishly to your people, your kingdom will not only lose a war, but your people will break away from your kingdom."

Unlike Machiavelli's realist beliefs, Confucius could be considered an idealist in that he sees the good in everyone. While The Prince could be considered an "Amoralist" view to leadership, The Analects could be considered the "Moralist" view to leadership. It is clear that these two works of literature contradicts one another in their view of leadership. In reviewing the Analects, one may reflect on several leadership topics which include power, ethics, motivation, authority, and communication. The writings of Confucius are a more insightful work of literature which mirrors the lessons of leadership that were taught thus far in our Leadership class. The commonality that can be drawn from the Analects and The Prince is the state in which both writers lived in. Both writers lived in aristocratic states characterized by political disorder and whose relations were managed on the foundation on personal advantage. The interesting difference is how each man reacts to their environment and publishes a book which is the exact opposite of each other's work.

Leadership Application:

Many of the leadership lessons learned previously in our Leadership class are sufficient with the teachings of Confucius which are embedded in his Analects. Confucius was an individual concerned with morals and ethics, especially that of the Divine Law. The Analects give philosophies on a wide array of subjects. Confucius had, however, no opportunity to put his theories to a public test until the age of 50 when he was appointed magistrate and minister of crime. His administration proved successful. Reforms were introduced, justice was fairly dispensed, and crime was almost eliminated. Another similarity between Confucius and Machiavelli is that a school of thought was also named after Confucius. Confucianism became a system of ethics, education, and statesmanship which stressed the love for humanity and harmony in thought and conduct.

Confucius had overwhelming views about leadership in the government. He believed that government is the center of people's lives and all other considerations derive from it. Good government must be concerned with three things: sufficient food, sufficient army, and the confidence of the governed. He is quoted in saying, "If the people have no confidence, all government is impossible." Another good addition to a good government is a good leader or prince, as he calls it. A leader must take into consideration the interests of the people, not be haughty, and not be disdainful. A leader must not command respect with a show of force and he stands fast and lets everything move around him. Confucius states, "If authorities love good conduct, the people will be easy to handle. If a ruler is right in his own person, he has no need to command, things are done without commanding." Confucius and Machiavelli are clearly divided in how leaders should run governments. The following theories will further point out their comprehensible differences.

Several leadership theories which relate to the Analects include, Power, Motivation, Ethics, and Trait Theory. Power indicates the potential influence that a leader has on his or her constituents. As Heifetz points out earlier, authority does not imply power. The governed can take power away as easily as they have given it. This is why a leader must never abuse his or her power because once the trust of the people has been tapped, a leader's power can diminish instantaneously. Under the Motivation Theory, it discusses five patterns for leadership success which are:

A manager should have a generally positive attitude towards those having authority over him or her.
A manager exhibits competitiveness and accepts challenges.
A manager should behave in an active and assertive manner.
A manager must direct the behavior of subordinates, including the appropriate use of rewards and punishments.
A manager should stand out from his or her group and assume high visibility.

Confucius would agree to these patterns which were developed by John B. Miner in his work of mangers and their ascension to leadership positions. These five patterns are what drive people to seek leadership positions, and at the same time, these patterns demonstrate what leaders must do to stay at the top as well.

Ethics, according to Stooner and Freeman, is the study of how our decisions affect other people. Ethics also encompass people's rights and duties, the moral rules they live by, and the nature of our relationships. Unlike the "Amoralist" theory, the Ethics theory implies that wherever people go, there are values and norms that govern each individual, whether it is on the corporate or the governmental level. Confucius preached that a leader who ruled within an ethical boundary, without crossing it, will rule successfully.

The Trait Theory examines the effective and ineffective physical and personal characteristics of leaders. This theory is based on the assumption that once these traits are identified, they can be taught to future leaders. It also assumes that some people are "born leaders" and can be identified with their drive to exercise initiative in social situations, willingness to accept consequences, and readiness to absorb work-related stress. Heifetz also points out the Trait Theory as an approach to Value Free leadership. Confucius might disagree with this theory because he believes that any person can rise to a leadership position, regardless of birth or class, when given the proper schooling and training needed, aside from a strong commitment to ideals and principles and strong communication skills.

Contemporary Person: Ferdinand Marcos

Ferdinand Edralin Marcos held an authoritarian regime in the Philippines from 1966 to 1986 that came under criticism for corruption and for its suppression of democratic process. He was the tenth president of the Philippines. Marcos was also one of the greatest political manipulators of this century. Arrests and assassinations kept the public living in fear. He used the tools of propaganda, unprecedented violence, and financial largesse to overcome all opposition. Unbelievably, he also became the first prime minister in Philippine history. His long, arduous climb to the highest office of the land was one marred with controversy and deception. While others considered him to be self-righteous, greedy, and dishonest, he is also regarded as a hero who defied all the odds and fulfilled the promise he made to his mother: "For every tear you shed, there will be a victory." Marcos was born in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte on September 11, 1917 to Mariano Marcos and Josefa Edralin. Marcos studied law at the University of the Philippines and while still a student, at twenty years old, he was arrested for conspiracy in the murder of Assemblyman Julio Nalundasan, one of his father's political rivals in 1933. He was found guilty in November 1939 but argued his case appeal to the Philippine Supreme Court. Marcos, a young lawyer with no trial experience, represented himself and won the appeal. He was later set free, and after graduation he took the bar examinations in which he ranked first in his class. During the Second World War, Marcos claimed to be a guerilla hero, winning more medals for bravery than any other Filipino soldier. He claimed he was captured by the Japanese and survived the Death March from Bataan to central Luzon and then escaped. Marcos' subsequent claims of being an important leader in the Filipino guerilla resistance movement were a critical factor in his later political success, but the United States government archives revealed that he actually played little or no part in anti-Japanese activities during the war. He asserted that he was entitled to military compensation but were found to be fraudulent by the United States Army, and indeed intelligence sources suggested the he instead collaborated wit the Japanese occupation army. Starting as a Congressman, Ferdinand Marcos served as a technical assistant to President Manuel Roxas from 1946 to 1947. He later ascended to the House of Representatives from 1949 to 1959 and eventually became a member of the Senate from 1963 to 1965. During the above mentioned times, Marcos acquired huge amounts of money by dominating the black market for dollars and granting licenses for imported goods. Within a short period of time, he became a multimillionaire.

When Marcos obtained the position of president of the Philippine senate, he was at the prime of his political career. He managed to woe the Filipina beauty queen, Imelda Romualdez, into marriage, and some speculated that he did so by showing her piles of 100 dollar United States bills contained in his bank vault. Imelda was said to have been engaged to another man when she accepted Marcos' proposal. On her wedding day in 1954, Ferdinand gave Imelda an eleven-karat diamond ring, which signified one karat for each day Marcos courted her. From that day forth she became an ever-present and dominating role in the presidency of her husband. In 1965 Marcos broke off from the Liberal Party after failing to get his party's nomination for president and ran as the Nationalist Party candidate. Through the bitter and expensive presidential campaign, Marcos defeated Diosdado Macapagal, the chosen candidate for the Liberal Party. He was inaugurated as president on December 30, 1965. He made progress during his first term in agriculture, industry, and education, yet his administration was troubled by increasing student demonstration and violent urban-guerilla activities. Marcos' promise of a "New Society" covered up his plunder of the national wealth of the country. The natural resources of the Philippines, the public sector of the economy, and the entire financial system was put at the disposal of Marcos and trusted lieutenants. In 1969 he was reelected and became the first Philippine president to serve a second term. At the onset of his second term, it was estimated by United States intelligence that Marcos had already stolen up to two billion U.S. dollars which was secreted in the Philippines and in various foreign countries, including Switzerland and the United States. At first, he impressed the Filipino people with the amount of wealth he brought into the country. Major cities became modernized and the economy saw an influx of foreign investors willing to devote time and money to the economy. However, condition changed in later years and his popularity with the people started to diminish.

Although the Philippine constitution limited the presidency to two four-year terms, Marcos imposed martial law on September 21, 1972 and ruled for twenty years. He succeeded by suspending the constitution, upon declaration of martial law, because he believed that Communist and subversive forces were working from within the government. He ruled as both president and prime minister under the new constitution which was more conducive to his ambitions. Instantaneously, the press was censored, airlines and major utilities came under government control, and the writ of habeas corpus was suspended. With the military, parliament, and courts under his control, Marcos began his dictatorial rule. The Marcos' got richer while the country got poorer.

Marcos was opposed by political leaders and was widely criticized by the Catholic Church, human rights organizations, and the United States. Though he announced the end of martial law in 1981, Marcos still ruled in an authoritarian manner. His presidency was charged with violations of human rights which included murder by the military and police. His administration became infamous because of corruption, economic stagnation, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, and the continued growth of Communist guerrilla insurgency. By 1983, Marcos' health started to decline and opposition to his rule was growing. Corazon Aquino emerged to become the presidential candidate for the opposition. In the election of 1986, it was believed that Marcos managed to defeat Aquino through massive voting fraud on the part of his supporters. When his dubious electoral victory spread at home and abroad, Marcos saw first hand the split among his supporters and that of Aquino. During the "People's Revolution" in February 25, 1986, Marcos was overthrown and Aquino was placed in office, who became the first woman ever elected to the presidency. Marcos fled in exile to Hawaii at the advice of the United States government and later died in September 28, 1989. Only after his death did evidence surfaced regarding himself, his family, and close associates of the embezzlement and corrupt practices that took place during his term. The Guinness World Book of Records listed Marcos as the greatest alleged thief in history. And there is no question that American intelligence agencies were aware of the systematic looting by the Marcoses. Him and his wife were indicted for racketeering charges by the United States government.

Ferdinand Marcos and Leader Application to The Prince and The Analects

The presidency of Ferdinand Marcos was one that will live in infamy among Filipinos as the greatest assault a trusted leader has ever committed to his people. The abuse of power and resources, which Marcos subjected the Filipino people to for over twenty years, demonstrated his weakness and incompetence as a leader. It was a waste of the political ingenuity he possessed as a lawyer and politician, and one could only wonder what would have become of the Philippines if he continued the upward trend of economic success that occurred on the first years of his presidency. The chaos and commotion that characterized the final years of Marcos' presidency frightened foreigners from the Philippines in search of other fruitful, more stable governments in Asia. Investor and consumer confidence steadily declined over the years and the Philippines continue to struggle economically and politically across the boards. The corruption that had taken place continues its backward trends as if Marcos had set somewhat of a precedence for political leaders aspiring to gain political offices through deceitful election practices.

Marcos' presidency could parallel the leadership that Niccolo Machiavelli spoke of in The Prince. In his twenty-year rule, Marcos followed Machiavelli's advice concerning the necessity of corruption within a prince's kingdom in which corruption was crucial to the length of one's stay in office. Machiavelli also advised his leaders to "adopt such a course that his citizens will always in every sort and kind of circumstance have need of the state of him, and then he will always find them faithful." This was the role that deception played in Marcos' term. He marveled at the trust and loyalty that the people gave him just so he could take advantage of them in return. When martial law was imposed, the people realized another side of their leader. Marcos took the steps "necessary to take such measures that, when they believe no longer, it may be possible to make them believe by force." Many people either died or were imprisoned for their opposition. Machiavelli would disagree in this aspect of Marcos' leadership style because Machiavelli believed that for a prince to rule effectively, he must always have the trust of the people and the respect of his peers for without either one, one is bound to failure.

Though Marcos had led, and in some ways violated the ways of Machiavelli, he also made violations with the teachings of Confucius. Confucius preached good will towards men and the application of the Golden Rule in all aspects of life. He believed that if one desires respect from the people, one must also earn respect and give it. Confucius was strict on how people should behave towards one another because a person's behavior towards his peers can be a strong indicator of the society they live in. Since Marcos chose to run a dishonest government, he cannot be guaranteed a loyal group of supporters. Confucius sought political order which leads to civil obedience among the ruled. Marcos sabotaged his own presidency for greed and wealth, which ultimately leads to his downfall. While the Philippine revolution deposed a powerful dictator, it left much of the old centralized power structure unchanged which signifies ineffective leadership. Violations that concerned leadership includes a the desire of an elected official to take advantage of the people for personal gain, the lack of proper judgment, the reluctance to practice adaptive leadership, and the failure to modulate the distress when it was necessary. According to Heifetz, adaptive leadership is vital if a leader wishes to extend his term and gain more constituents. The ability of a leader to adapt to his or her environment could determine their success or failure. Along with adaptive leadership, Heifetz instructs leaders to avoid making split-second decisions because those decisions are usually done in haste without proper thought process. One cannot be a leader if they wish to exploit the rights of the people they govern. The leader, upon taking office, takes the responsibility of protecting basic human rights which everyone is entitled to. Lastly, a strong leader must be able to function within the lines of distress and tranquility. Crossing over either one of these lines can lead to failure at both ends of the spectrum. The Marcos presidency had the characteristics of a bad leadership because it sought the maleficent intent of a leader whose interests came first before those of his country and his people. A Confucian, not Machiavellian, system of leadership would have benefited the government and the people immensely if exercised by the right leader with the right intent in mind.


The case studies on The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli and The Analects of Confucius demonstrate two leadership styles that contradict one another. Machiavelli advised leaders to be aggressive and use whatever means necessary to secure and acquire kingdoms. Confucius preached to his followers the importance of social order and civil obedience. Concepts of leadership can be derived from these two case studies which include the Moralist vs. Amoralist Theories, Power Theory, Motivation Theory, Ethics Theory, and Trait Theory. Several concepts from Ronald A. Heifetz book, Leadership Without Easy Answers, can also be used to apply leadership concepts in these case studies plus the contemporary person which is Ferdinand Marcos. These concepts include the Trait Theory, Adaptive Leadership, and Modulating Distress. The presidency of Ferdinand Marcos was used in order to compare Marcos' leadership style to those of Machiavelli and Confucius. It was determined that if Marcos had practiced leadership based on the Confucian system and Adaptive Leadership, his presidency would have been more successful and not tainted by political scandals and corruptions.

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