Friends & Friction: Accountable leaders don’t appoint yes men

2014-04-29 10:00

On May 3, four days before the general elections, it will be the birthday of Niccolò Machiavelli.

His book The Prince brought him notoriety and equated his name with crooked leadership.

It is an unfair charge because all he ever did in his book was to map the political terrain just like a cartographer mapping a hostile territory.

“Politics have no relation to morals,” he wrote, and for most people that is an uncomfortable truth, but life is a spectrum of truth that varies in levels of comfort, the most comfortable of which is self-deception.

Machiavelli would know more than most because he was both an Italian politician and a diplomat during the Renaissance, and three cheers to him for his honesty.

He wrote about politics, but his thoughts are equally applicable to business because it bears the twin evils of politics: money and power, the two reasons for so many boardroom coups.

“He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command,” warned Machiavelli. Many people I know go into business for the wrong reasons. “I want to be my own boss,” they say. Well, there is no such thing as “your own boss”.

You only find that in cheap “how-to” ads that promise you the world and take all your money. There is always someone to report to – starting with the customer.

Customers pay for everything just like the boss at work. They have demands that if you fail to meet, they simply walk next door. End of story.

Accountability is the wheel of progress. It takes you forward. Never fear people who do as they please.

Even with all its deficiencies, democracy works because every few years leaders have to account to the people, who decide whether they have been good or bad – the majority wins.

So if you have intentions of starting a business, it is better to appoint a small board of advisers to whom you will account. As the business grows, the appointment of managers is important.

“A matter of no small importance to a prince [leader] is the selection of ministers, for their competence or incompetence will depend upon his capacity to judge, and the first estimate of his intelligence will be based upon the character of the men he keeps about him.”

Some ANC veterans say Thabo Mbeki’s biggest mistake was to keep Ndaweni Mahlangu as the premier of Mpumalanga after he had said it was “acceptable for politicians to lie”.

It made people doubt his judgement, or worse, that he wanted to surround himself with weak people that he could easily control.

Some decisions might look insignificant when put into perspective, but many diseases start like the common flu and grow to become an epidemic. Likewise, a company’s success cannot be greater than its management team.

Film producer Sam Goldwyn famously said: “I don’t want any yes men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their job.”

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Man scores date with tennis superstar after Twitter bet

It’s a modern day Cinderella story, but one American man took ‘shoot your shot’ seriously in 2017.


You won't want to miss...

6 myths about male cancer
Who are the highest paid models of 2017?
10 gorgeous plus-sized models who aren't Ashley Graham
5 top leg exercises for men
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.