During my first year at York University in Toronto I discovered the philosophy of Niccolo Machiavelli and surprised to learn that I was not the only one who lauded his ‘end justifies the means’ work ethic. The Italian philosopher was a cunning and deceitful manipulator, full of trickery and nothing stood in his way when it came to conducting business and trampling on his competitors; he had no ethics. If you won at the end, that justified the means. After the essay met with the lecturer's approval she reported that she did not agree with some of the things written in the essay but that she would give the essay an A minus for my admirable defence of his principles.

 Cactus 1Credit: Rayda Jacobs

Machiavellian work ethic – Don’t wait for tomorrow to do what you can do now. His philosophy was all about personal gain. He was criticised for his principles, yet today, five hundred years later, many business owners and companies follow his hard-line principles.  Here are some leadership lessons from Machiavelli you might learn from.

Never was anything great achieved without danger. This is irreverent and tough advice for new entrepreneurs and advocates taking risks. You are not to wait but to do it now. Later you are older and might never take the chances you take now.

I’m not interested in preserving things the way they are; I want to overthrow it. This principle gives a good look into the way he thinks. He abhors the idea that things stay the way they are and wrote: ‘Cynics question common wisdom and those in authority. They aren’t just okay with things staying the way they are, they seek a better way to do things.’

The first method for estimating the merit a ruler is to look at the men around him. A successful ruler will have successful people around him; a weak ruler will have lame lieutenants. Strong leaders hire the best.

The wise man does at once what the fool does finally. This easily translates not to put off for tomorrow what you can do today. The guy who comes late misses the boat.

Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times. Leaders must learn to adapt and work in a fast-changing world to avoid corporate or political disaster. This apparently is why most companies fail.

The above principles are but a smattering of Machiavelli’s business advice. In the end, ‘entrepreneurs are those people who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity’ and that one ought to turn both to their advantage. It is the role of the entrepreneur to find an innovative solution to solve the customer’s problem. Without obstacles there are no opportunities.