In any place where people live, there is a community, and there is a leader of the community, and it is obvious that people have needed a leader to command them from the initial existence of the human beings. Therefore, people have endeavored to be a great, admired and efficient leader, and many educated people suggested how to be a good leader in each era. Then, what would be the best way to become a great leader? Among these educated people, Machiavelli was one who suggested the methods of becoming a powerful prince through many examples and the histories of Kings lived in the past.
On the other hand, Lao Tzu suggested completely different methods of becoming a great leader based on the Tao. Three major differences of their suggestions were about war, fortune and mercy. Machiavelli and Lao Tzu had different ideas about war. According to Machiavelli, war should be a profession of a prince. He suggested a prince to think about arms than personal luxuries, and he said being disarmed would make him to be despised. However, Lao Tzu said, ‘Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself’.
He suggested a leader not to force anyone because the outcome will result in revenge. He believed that if a person does not harm others, they will not harm the person as well. Furthermore, they had different ideas of preparing war. Machiavelli encouraged a prince to train himself in peace time more than in time of war, and Lao Tzu said, ‘No greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself’. It is evident that Machiavelli emphasized on preparing war all the time, but Lao Tzu did not even mention about preparing war.
They also had different ideas about using money wisely. According to Machiavelli, a prince should not worry about being called a miser because he can save his income to use on war and prevent his people to pay excessive taxes. He thought being only generous would result in running out of money, but he suggested to show generosity when a prince must control the property of others. Lao Tzu is quite different. If the Master is wealthy, his people would suffer from poverty and robbery. He suggested not spending money on weapons for war and not charging too much tax.
Machiavelli’s way of managing a leader’s fortune was concentrated on preparing war and avoiding hatred, but Lao Tzu wanted a leader to use money for his people. The last major difference of their ideas is about mercy. Machiavelli let the leader to become cruel if he needs to be. He suggested that the leader must desire to be considered merciful, but he proposed him not to misuse his mercy because excessive mercy would harm the community. He thought excessive mercy would cause disorders and murders, so he proposed a need of cruelty to become united and prepare for any combat.
The purpose of being cruel comes more clearly when he said, ‘it is much safer to be feared than to be loved’. He thought showing his cruelty would command his large army more efficiently. In contrast, Lao Tzu proposed a Master not to be cruel to his people at all. His proposing methods to treat the Master’s people are all about mercy. He suggested a leader not to control his people because they will become more virtuous without prohibitions. Moreover, he said, ‘Best is a leader who is loved’.