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Exploring Political Leadership

Several theories explain the reaction of the political leaders to how they exert their leaderships. However, there are complex issues that need to be taken into consideration. This paper will look at the La Boetie as well as the Niccolò Machiavelli theories. The La Boetie explains about the tyrannical leadership. This is where by the tyrant tend to oppress the other people and hate it when people become friends. The thus cause disharmony among the people in order to bring conflict. The Machiavelli’s theory on the other hand is showing how leaders should be evil and put people on fear for the purposes of one benefit. This paper seeks to explanation how a political leader succeeds in maintaining power by using the concepts and insights from La Boétie and Machiavelli. It has compared and contrasted the ways in which the Prince (in Machiavelli’s case) or the tyrant (in La Boétie’s case) succeed in remaining in power and how or why they might lose it.

La Boetie is best known for his political puzzle on why human beings submitted to the rule of the tyrants (Jost, 2020). His argument was that the desire for freedom was natural for humanity and that the freedom could have easily been regained even under the tyrant. He advocated for the freedom and urged human beings to make a resolution that they would no longer bow to the tyrants and this would make the tyrants to collapse as they watched. He was against the idea that the tyrants were held so highly in the society and they tended to oppress the other human beings.


As stated by Jost, 2020, in his argument, La Boetie noted that the kinds of kings could be placed into three categories. The kings could have been hereditary monarchs, there are the other kings that ruled by right of conquest and finally the kings that were elected by the people. However, out of the three categories, he was interested in the first one where the kings were hereditary monarchs. He stated that the hereditary monarchs saw the people they ruled as hereditary slaves. To add, their subjects were comfortable with that fact and they could not comprehend hence they never complained of the same (Sellick, 2020). To add, he argued that the people who had self-interest tended to collaborate with the tyrants. In his description, he noted how very several people attached themselves to the tyrant out of their self-interests. Other people would gather around those the people who were attached to the tyrants and eventually, the people who exercised power on behalf of the tyrant were thousands. He however says that those people were not friends with the dictator since the dictator did not have friends. In his description, La Boetie says that the dictator is never loved and neither does he loves.

To add, La Boetie wrote about friendship where he described friendship as sacred and that the tyrant’s main air was to corrupt human relations. Therefore, friendship was importance in the coexistence of human beings (Sellick, 2020). He also exalts friendship since the friendship was absent among the wicked, when there was injustice, where there was disloyalty and where there is cruelty. To add, when people whore were not friends came together, he argues that it is not a company, rather it is a conspiracy. Those people fear each other, neither do they love one another, but they accomplices and not friends.

The tyrants as described by La Boetie maintained their power through dictatorship and oppressing those they led. They made sure that the people remained as their slaves and they brought division among them. They knew that if people came together and loved each other, they would go against the dictator. Creating friendship among the people could make their bond strong which could have led to the fall of the tyrants.

As opposed to La Boetie, Niccolò Machiavelli had a different view on the political science. He had a different approach that which considered immoral ways of conducting politics. To add, most political philosophers relate legitimate authority with moral goodness. Hence it was the view of most philosophers that the leaders ought to be virtuous and the moral character affected the use of political power. Therefore, the leaders were expected to be behave according to the conventional standards of ethical goodness if they wished for a long and peaceful reign.

To add, it was believed that the leaders who were good did well in their leadership. However, Niccolò Machiavelli opposed the notion that leaders had to be good for their leadership to go well. He argued that there was no moral basis that could be used in judging the illegitimate or the legitimate use of power (Winter, 2018). He believed that power and authority were essentially coequal. He stated that the person that was in possession of the power had the right to command and neither did goodness ensure power. To add, the virtue of being good did not give a person the moral authority of becoming a good leader.

Additionally, Niccolò Machiavelli notes that the political rulers were mainly concerned with the acquisition and the maintenance of power (Winter, 2018). He also states that the political activity is characteristically defined by power and that it was essential for the successful rulers to know how to use the power. He believes that people would be made to obey through proper application of power and it is the only way that the ruler would maintain security and their state in safety.

Therefore, the Machiavelli's political theory is a representation of the exerted efforts to exclude the issue of legitimacy and authority in the political judgment and the decision making in the relationship between force and law (Wootton, 2018). To add, Machiavelli acknowledges that good arms as well as good laws are crucial in the organization of the political system. However, he notes that coercion creates legality hence there is need to look at the force. He also states that the threat of coercion force is influences the legitimacy of the laws.

Consequently, Machiavelli believes that fear reacts in the same manner in the subjects while deception and violence are more powerful than legality and is very effective (Wootton, 2018). He also notes that men are timid of danger, deceitful, insincere, disloyal and ungrateful. Also, he stated that fear holds people fast and they dread the punishment that never passes. According to Machiavelli, love is a bond that people break whenever its suites them to do so. People tend to obey simply because they fear that there might be consequences of not doing which range from loss of the privileges or loss of life. To add, power alone is not an obligation to one to follow the rules Machiavelli’s perception is that individuals are compelled to obey rules just because of their defence to the state since its powers are superior. Power is the ultimate determinant of what is expected from a person and it is what leads people to submit (Donskis, 2011). Therefore, that can be termed as the exercise of power or it is the power of fear of the state. The arguments that Machiavelli puts across is that authority is a right to command which does not have van independent status.

However, a dispute source concerned Machiavelli’s attitude especially one’s morals and religious behaviour (Wootton, 2018). His lessons emphasized immorality and his most extreme lessons coins him to be a teacher of evil as he tells leaders to stop being just, having mercy, love, temperance and being wise and instead they be violent, deceptive, cruel and impacting fear. In a more moderate school of thought, they perceive Machiavelli as a realist and a pragmatist person who just called for ignoring ethical normalcy when it comes to politics. They go further to say that moral values have no place in decisions that political leaders should make and it the biggest mistake to think so. As stated by Wootton (2018), the mildest school of thought had the idea that rulers’ deed is seen vicious by a convention is a good option. The proponent of this school in reference to the first school, which stated that rulers out to do better whenever possible and do evil if unavoidable, they argued that Machiavelli thought of conformity to moral virtue.

The Machiavelli’s theory is not to show the difference between just and unjust in governments but he was to elaborate how people deploy power when in leadership in order for them to gain (Nederman, 2009). This was one of the theories that rose in the field of political scientist comparable in status with the Aristotle theory. Nowadays the theory isn’t much favoured thou a revised version and some other readers have found no immoralism in Machiavelli theory. Various other theories of this major theory have as well evolved trying to make it clearer. Some proponents have claimed that scholars should try to understand what he meant rather than criticizing his ideas (Nederman, 2009).

The La Boetie theory believed that the hereditary monarchs use their power to enslave the people. On the other hand, there is a need by the people to join hands and go up against the tyrants. To add, love is a crucial thing when it come as to unity. Friends cannot hurt each other but the tyrants would not wish that people create friendship since they fear that a resolution would take place. The tyrants do not love and neither do they love. There are also some people who tend to be loyal to the tyrants but therefore they became part of the dictatorship. On the other hand, the Machiavelli believe that the people in authority have a right to command and that most people obey the authority because of the fear of the consequences related to the disobedience.

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From the above discussion, the La Boétie and Machiavelli on political power differ. The La Boétie theory mainly talks about the tyrants who use their power to manipulate and oppress the people through dictatorship. However, the Machiavelli’s theory talks about how those people that are in power use fear to manipulate the people. However, there are similarities between the two theories where the people in power oppress their subjects. Also, power has been used in the two theories to make the decisions that please the rulers at the expense of their subjects. Finally, there is a need to look into the depth of the two theories so as to make a conclusive decision on the political governance.


Donskis, L. ed., 2011. Niccolò Machiavelli:" History, Power, and Virtue" (Vol. 226). Rodopi.

Jost, J.T., 2020. A theory of system justification. Harvard University Press.

Nederman, C., 2009. Niccolò Machiavelli. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy.

Sellick, P., 2020. From nonviolent practice toward a theory of political power. Journal of Political Power, 13(1), pp.41-59.

Winter, Y., 2018. Machiavelli and the Orders of Violence. Cambridge University Press.

Wootton, D., 2018. Power, Pleasure, and Profit: Insatiable Appetites from Machiavelli to Madison. Harvard University Press.

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