It is not people that clash, it is their personalities that conflict. Considering complexity of human world, these conflicts are further increased by ambition and fickleness of mind. An entrepreneur will have to face these conflicts in business on a regular basis. Every conflict will be different from the previous one but the basics required to solve them will always stay the same. One needs the qualities of fox and lion as discussed earlier to fight off the snares and the wolves aiming at your business. One needs to understand his strength and develop the weaknesses which influence the foundations of his business. These qualities have been discussed earlier.
Should a conflict be avoided if possible?
Machiavelli identifies the fallacy of avoiding the war (Modern day complex conflicts). Things will never come to the extent of war if they could be resolved peacefully. And if they cannot be resolved peacefully, avoiding war will definitely not help. If the enemy is content with avoiding the war, it will be a better idea to assume that he may be preparing for your complete annihilation.
Machiavelli says “War is not to be avoided, but is only put off to the advantage of others”. Enjoying the benefits of time will only leave you unprepared for the future times which may bring both good and evil. Use the time to prepare for the current and the future problems that may arise.
Who will Support me in a Conflict?
Throughout the book Machiavelli emphasizes on winning the love and trust of people. He says “Men change their rulers willingly, hoping to better themselves and this hope induces them to take up arms against him who rules: wherein they are deceived, because they afterwards find by experience they have gone from bad to worse.” Mutiny or revolts might not look like a modern day phenomenon unlike strikes and military coups happening in some unstable countries. But they are, and the ways of such revolts have become more sophisticated and subtle. Board room coups and ouster of princes like Steve jobs, Travis Kalanick or Cyrus Mistry are all recent examples. Behind the curtains who may be plotting what, you will never know.
There are no definite ways to address a probable uprising but Machiavelli suggests themes to work on which will keep the prince safe:
1. Keep them happy
Happy people have little to think about the unnecessary things. This does not mean spending money on them. It can be translated into getting creative work done or even showing them the bright future ahead frequently.
Entrepreneurs love passing information through press and mails where in they talk about the success they have been achieving. However, ensure that such messages need be substantiated with right evidence and as close to reality as possible. Consider the case of Snapdeal founders who every year announce that they will be breaking even soon and almost got sold off in end. Employees have a good knowledge of the health of the business and hiding facts will not be a good idea.
The entrepreneur should not be the bearer of bad news and only the good news. Machiavelli writes “A prince ought to leave affairs of reproach to the management of others, and keep those of grace in their own hands. And further, I consider that a prince ought to cherish the nobles, but not so as to make himself hated by the people.”
2. Staying high up
Standing not only in terms of organizational hierarchy but also in terms of knowledge and expertise. People should see you in high esteem for Machiavelli writes “He who is highly esteemed is not easily conspired against; for, provided is well known that is an excellent man and revered by his people, he can only be attacked with difficulty.”
In such a case, there will be two threats, internal from internal people and external form competition and environmental factors. For external threats, he should arrange the whole business to be prepared. Strong and happy vendor network and clientele will keep the competition in check. It is seen that internal affairs are calm when they are calm externally.
Internal conspiracies are a regular affair in businesses, for which Machiavelli writes “A prince ought to reckon conspiracies of little account when his people hold him in esteem; but when it is hostile to him, and bears hatred towards him, he ought to fear everything and everybody.”
3. Watch your back
Yes. That is the first mantra you should always resort to as the problems will be much easier to solve initially. Having a clear line of communication, friends in right places to feed you information and a friendly interaction with everyone will keep you safe. Machiavelli says “In hectic fever, that in the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time, not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure.” Any chances of a future revolt need to be resolved right in the beginning itself for in future it becomes beyond cure.
Should you stay neutral in conflict?
Situation may arise when you have to decide of joining or leaving a faction in a conflict. Many would think of staying politically correct and staying neutral and most do. Machiavelli disagrees by saying “He who conquers does not want doubtful friends who will not aid him in the time of trial; and he who loses will not harbor you because you did not willingly, sword in hand, court his fate.”
While this may be true for kingdoms where territories are at stake and not so in business, taking sides in conflicts is still unavoidable. If in a conflict, you are not able to decide where to stand and are happy to let one side win, then you do not deserve to be a prince for your indecisiveness. Instead choose what is right for the business and stand with it. Making your stand clear and putting your weight behind it shows your judgment for which you will be respected.
Is a middle way possible?
If the middle way is possible, then you face the decision to lead the organization in one of the three directions now instead of one. So taking sides and solving the conflict is what one should do and reduce the probable directions from two to one. For peace loving entrepreneurs Machiavelli would have written that they should write poetry as start ups are for people who prefer taking challenges. It is these challenges that bring opportunities and the awards associated as covered in the next article.
What will others think?
Firstly an entrepreneur should never think of others opinion as long as he is not hated. For if he cares for the opinions of others, he should look for a safe and secure job in the first place and not venture out taking risks. This is very true in Indian context where job and not entrepreneurship is primarily seen as way of life.
Secondly, people who think well of the business too will not ask him to stay neutral but make a decision. Taking no decision is simply being political or coward in order to protect one’s reputation. Machiavelli says “He who is not your friend will demand your neutrality, whilst he who is your friend will entreat you to declare yourself with arms.” So anyone asking you to take a side is asking you to decide what is right and wrong for business and “Not for you”.
Remember the scene from Godfather when Tessio sets up a meeting for Michael with Barzini?
Are there any advantages of conflicts?
Conflicts show the thought process and maturity of people involved. In the passion of moment, feelings and other emotions that most people try to hide gets exposed. You can judge the strength and weakness of people in conflict and how much would they stand and fight for their cause. The arguments in conflict show their ideology and in modern world their intelligence.
It also provides an opportunity for you to come on top and establish your superiority in terms of intelligence and leadership qualities. When the captain of a boat is confused and incapable of taking decisions, whoever takes charge of the ship rises to the level of captain and in no time will be the captain.
Conflicts are chaotic by their very nature but that does not mean one should be afraid of it. Not taking any side is a sign of fear which the modern day entrepreneurs should overcome. Fear of losing anything makes you a slave and slaves do not achieve much. Instead one should embrace the opportunity of conflict and see destruction as the foundation of construction forged by your will. Machiavelli himself was tortured in a prison for 12 days before he retired in his estate and wrote the greatest political treatise which people read and follow.