When one hears the word “Machiavellian,” the usual response is negative. The work of 16th century writer Niccolo Machiavelli is often dismissed as being grounded in self-interest and achievement of success at any cost. In Machiavellian Ministry: What Faith Filled Leaders Can Learn from a Faithless Politician, Terrell Carter attempts to redeem the work of Machiavelli and apply it to 21st century leadership, particularly for leaders in the church. Carter also draws on the insights of modern management to interpret and apply the Italian philosopher’s writings to the challenges of contemporary leadership.
The key idea is, “How does a leader deal with change?” The author shows great wisdom in challenging leaders to address “what is” rather than “what ought to be.” This is especially relevant in a social and cultural climate that continues to shift around us.
Carter identifies three positive points of Machiavelli’s advice to a new Medici prince and then rephrases them for contemporary leaders:
- Be willing to learn from the experiences of others;
- Prepare for challenges that come from implementing change; and
- Surround yourself with a diverse, capable staff, and let them utilize their gifts.
The author concludes with identifying three specific issues on which church leaders can bring these skills to bear: social justice, police-community relations, and diversity in leadership. All of these are areas in which Carter has been involved, so he is able to move from the abstract to the concrete in showing how the leadership skills identified can make a difference in a contemporary setting.
Carter has an informative, readable style. The only critique I have of the book is the lack of citations of the works referenced although there is an extensive bibliography.
I encourage you to read Carter’s book for its fresh and relevant perspective.