Machiavellian Intelligence: How to survive and rise in the modern corporation

We tend to assume that organisations are rational meritocracies in which the most able and talented executives are drawn inexorably to the top of the organisation by a rigorously fair-minded selection process. But the vast majority of modern organisations are hierarchical; there are relatively few senior roles and competition for these roles is fierce. The race to the top is a very real power struggle which drives Machiavellian behaviour in ambitious people.

The unusual status of corporations also plays a part: corporations are like individuals – potentially immortal individuals: legal entities that survive the people who founded them and many several generations of future executives. It is the executives’ duty to serve the corporation, which drives executives to behave more ruthlessly in the service of the corporation than they would in a normal community.

Machiavellian Intelligence lists 6 ‘good’ habits that are, in fact, bad for your career and illustrates each habit with several examples, all drawn from real life. If you are talented and work very hard, for example, you may imagine that the organisation will seek you out for promotion. This might happen, but if your peers are better at self-promotion and networking with senior people, they may well steal a march on you. You might think that you should always be helpful to your colleagues – but if they use your help and advice to outshine you, this will end badly.

The race for the top is a zero-sum game: for you to succeed, someone else has to fail. If you tend instinctively towards the ‘good’ habits that are actually bad for your career, read Machiavellian Intelligence before it’s too late!

Machiavellian Intelligence: How to survive and thrive in the modern corporation