When Talking About Leadership Styles Is It Better to be Feared or Loved? Let Facebook Decide.

Students use Facebook to answer the age old Machiavelli question: "Is it better to be feared than loved?"

By Jonathan Civitella


Florence Duomo - Is It Better to Be Feared Than Loved_Let Facebook Decide

Whether you’re teaching a lesson on key figures from the Renaissance, influential politicians, or game-changing books, one man’s name will always be mentioned: Niccolo Machiavelli. That’s right history fans, Wednesday, May 3rd, marked the 542nd birthday of the man responsible for the eternal question, “Is it better to be feared than loved?” But Machiavelli was much more than the author of "The Prince" and a man with a very thin jaw line; he was also a politician, a humanist and a philosopher. And in honor of the big five-four-two, I presented the following lesson to my students which used Machiavelli’s famous quote as the springboard for a Facebook project in which they analyzed leadership styles.

I opened class by asking students to respond to the following writing prompt: “Describe the ideal leader (i.e., characteristics).” Afterwards we had an informal discussion in which students shared their ideas and theories. Next, I showed a clip from “A Bronx Tale,” a movie which was turned into a Broadway show about life in New York during the 1960’s. I asked students if there is in fact a difference between love and fear when it comes to being a good leader. After another informal discussion, I had students pair up and work on the following assignment.

  • Each group had to select and conduct research on one person from a list of influential leaders throughout history. This list should contain leaders from various schools of thought who were both loved and feared. I made sure to already include at least two references which help get them started with their research. The aim of their research is to develop an argument to support the claim that “Leader X” is the ideal leader.
  • Once each group has developed a solid argument for their leader, they created a Facebook page to honor their leader.
  • Each page had to include at least ten pertinent facts about their leader (e.g., policies, ideology, etc . . . ); at least one type of media (e.g., audio, video, pictures, newspaper articles, etc. . .); and one quote from a historian to strengthen/support their argument.
  • The group also was asked to write either “feared” or “loved” inside the status section of the page. Be sure to include an incentive for creativity as you’ll be blown away by some of the finished products (e.g., Stalin’s favorite book would be the "Communist Manifesto" and his favorite song would be "Back in the USSR").

Once each group had finished their Facebook pages, they had until the start of the next class to get as many “friends” as possible. Whichever group received the most friends in that span, was the victor and won a firm handshake from their teacher and the respect of their classmates.

**When using social media in your class it is imperative that students understand what is and is not acceptable in   terms of the content they create. Students must know, before they even think Google, that they are only permitted to post “appropriate” content.

The two day lesson came to a close during the next class with either an informal class discussion in which each group discussed why their leader is the ideal leader; or a more formal debate in which each group took on the persona of their leader in a “presidential debate.” Lastly, I had students re-examine their answers to the original prompt and edit it based on their newly acquired knowledge. What follows are more lessons related to Machiavelli and leadership styles.

Leadership Styles Lessons:

Machiavelli's "The Prince"

Students learn about the man who wrote "The Prince" and identify qualities of a good leader.

Politics and Leadership

Students compare and contrast great leaders throughout history.

The Political is Personal

Students relfect on their own political ideology based on events, people and experiences.

Societal Images of Leadership

Students debunk stigmas associated with youth leadership and examine what makes a good leader.