His treatise on Renaissance statecraft and power has been inspirational since it was published more than 500 years ago. Undeniably controversial, this analysis of ways to gain and retain power offers much to the OSH practitioner. Machiavelli's "prince" is closer today to a business leader than a politician, so here's how you can learn from the master.
First, he advises princes to "go and live among" the subjects so that "troubles can be detected as they are beginning". It's what US leadership thinker W. Edwards Deming called "management by walking around" and what's become known in safety as "felt leadership".
Next, he states that "rulers maintain themselves better if they owe little to luck". Machiavelli digs into strategy development in chapter six using a recipe that today could be illustrated as talent + opportunity + drive = success.
Machiavelli argues that the secret to being an authoritative leader is to act like one. He advises that "men judge more with their eyes than their hands" so it's about getting out there. As he says: "A ruler should personally lead his armies." Someone has to step up and show the way, so it might as well be you. If you want to make a significant change, it's always better to be in the vanguard.
A list of leadership virtues appears in chapter 15: generosity, mercy, moderation, affability, strong spirit, morality, and more. But sagely he points out that no one ruler has all these virtues so, rather than trying to be perfect, identify your weaknesses and don't let them dominate.