Based on the concepts explored in Machiavellian Intelligence: How to survive and thrive in the modern corporation, this theme explores the power structures of modern organisations and the behaviours best-suited for success.

Organisations are complex social structures and people are political animals. Studies of groups of primates have shown that apes and monkeys display very high levels of ‘Machiavellian intelligence’. Primatologists suggest that this Machiavellian intelligence, which enables the primates to negotiate the complex hierarchies of their highly-functional social groups, may have been the prime evolutionary driver for their enhanced brain power – and that Homo sapiens, a truly social species, may also have Machiavellian intelligence to thank for its remarkably large neocortex and highly-developed cognitive abilities.

On this argument, Machiavellian intelligence is one of mankind’s defining characteristics.

Most organisations have a significant power hierarchy – it is very difficult to create genuinely ‘flat’ organisations that can succeed in a hyper-competitive market. Because such power structures exist, successful business executives are also successful diplomats and politicians: there is a ‘Machiavellian’ aspect to their behaviour which helps them to succeed. Machiavellian Intelligence (MI) is as important to the modern leader as Emotional Intelligence (EI) but is often neglected.

Our unique MI diagnostic, which can be completed online by delegates, helps to reveal the extent to which they feel that the organisation uses Machiavellian behaviours, and the extent of their own Machiavellianism. Some organisations thrive on high levels of Machiavellian behaviour; some are damaged by it; what is appropriate and successful depends, as ever, on the organisational culture. What is dangerous is not knowing whether your culture is Machiavellian or not.

This theme explores ‘office politics’: behaviours that we tend to pretend do not exist, or are a kind of irrelevant nuisance that gets in the way of the pure aspects of ‘doing business.’ The theme suggests, to the contrary, that because organisations are complex social communities, and because humans are inescapably ‘political’ animals, Machiavellian behaviours in the workplace need to be fully recognised and understood.


All of our speaker themes can be delivered in variety of formats to suit the occasion, budget, audience, and purpose.

Themes can be delivered as a short speech, an interactive conference session, a half-day workshop or a full-day masterclass.

We also run bespoke arts-based leadership development programmes.

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