Different Personalities at Work: Machiavellianism

Machiavellianism is “the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct”. The word comes from the Italian Renaissance diplomat and writer Niccolò Machiavelli, born in 1469, who wrote Il Principe (The Prince), among other works. Machiavellian leaders often tend to be awe-inspiring- CEOs and corporate executives who are incredibly intelligent and intuitive, motivated and manipulative, diplomatic yet devious, congenial yet cunning.

In African business circles, very few businessmen embody more Machiavellian traits than Africa’s richest man, Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote. To the general public, he is the unassuming, refined and civil businessman. In business circles he is viewed as cynical, eccentric, tactical and manipulative.

Over the years, Dangote has skillfully devised creative and unorthodox means of thwarting his competitors. A favorite tactic of his is price crashing. Dangote has thrived sufficiently through dropping prices of major commodities like sugar, cement, salt and flour, leaving competitors struggling to keep up. By and large, he has created a near monopoly in several key commodities in Nigeria.

Dangote has also skillfully made friends in high places. Never has he incurred the enmity of powerful people. He has courted Nigerian political leaders, donating colossal sums to their election campaigns and funding several political parties. Dangote had donated millions of dollars to the campaign of Nigeria’s incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, in the run-up to the 2011 presidential elections.

Dangote might be cunning and ruthless in business, but he knows just when and how to do good, and how to publicize it enough to win public affection. He has given away millions of dollars to charitable causes in everything from education to health, the arts and small scale enterprises. When you succeed in business, always give back. You win public affection with your grand messianic gestures and build emotional capital for yourself and your brand.