Philosophy of Management

Volume 13, Issue 3, 2014

Loyal Talents, Distorted Knowledge?

Damian Grace, Michael Jackson
Pages 51-72

Reflections on the Misrepresentation of Machiavelli in Management: The Mysterious case of the MACH IV Personality Construct

Niccolò Machiavelli is credited with inspiring the MACH IV personality assessment instrument, which has been adopted widely in management, both public and private. The personality this instrument maps is manipulative, deceitful, immoral, and self-centred. The instrument emerged in 1970 and created a minor industry. There are at least eighty empirical studies in management that involved more than 14,000 subjects. Richard Christie, who created the scale, has said that it is derived from the works of Machiavelli. In a standard debriefing after completing this scale, respondents would be told it concerns the Machiavellian personality. We argue that the Machiavellian personality in MACH IV has little, if anything, to do with Machiavelli, either the man or his works. If Machiavelli is alleged to be relevant to management, we argue that this personality assessment instrument does not demonstrate such relevance. To advance this case we first describe the development of the instrument, identifying some of the assumptions upon which it rests; then we assess each of its twenty items against Machiavelli’s texts. We find fewer than half of the items have even a tenuous connection with Machiavelli’s works, yet the instrument bears his name. Against this spurious Machiavelli we juxtapose another twenty passages from The Prince, showing a much more complex and subtle thinker than the one-dimensional cipher in the MACH IV scale. Machiavelli studies have done much to dispel the cloud of mythology around the man and his reputation, and we hope to do the same to MACH IV. In the name of intellectual honesty and sound scholarship, we urge management scholars to take note of this distortion of Machiavelli, and where possible address it, and that users of the MACH IV scale distinguish the man, Machiavelli, and his works from this instrument.