George Lucas Educational Foundation

Machiavelli and educational leadership

Machiavelli and educational leadership

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"You must never allow disorder to develop in an attempt to avoid war, as this way you are not escaping war, but simply postponing it to your disadvantage." -N. Machiavelli An educational leader must confront challenges to his push for positive reform, so says Machiavelli. Change is difficult for both the leader and those for whom he serves. As I have come to know, there will be people who will resist my efforts to make research-based change that I have believed is necessary after carefully diagnosing the problems that may face a school. Any attempt to "avoid war" with resistors could have led to nothing more than an eventual conflict down the road, after the changes I intended were put in place. The conclusion? Leaders must deal with the difficulties of conflict with people who will be unable to adapt to what is deemed to be the necessary changes for the learning community when these people make their resistance known. The fallout from not confronting these individuals could be a problem after the changes are in effect that could siphon away the important intended consequences of such change. Read more at:

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Margherita Rossi's picture
Margherita Rossi
Teacher of Classical Humanities at Lyceum (High School) from Bologna, Italy

Dear Professor Taylor,
I've appreciated your post about educational leadership. I think that the most serious problem in school is the absence of strong and valid leading figures to push the school world to change.
But change's foundation is the confrontation (that you call "conflict"): How many teachers, schools, etc... have true willpower to confront each others? Who wants the risks and difficulties of conflict? I'm thinking about Italian school: a combination of tradition and rejection of innovation. Yesterday, to my students, I illustred Machiavelli's Prince paragraph, where he talks about a big and dangeorus river, without banks: when overflow comes, all bordering lands are destroyed. Men can't stop the irruence of river, but they can, in good weather, erect big and solid banks. Italian school (maybe others?) is lacking of the long view to understand the importance of conflictual debate. In Italian we have a special word "immobilismo" (immobilisme): this is Italy's school now. Only few people comprehend that ignoring conflict, war times are coming.

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