I could not resist the opportunity to quote Boris Yeltsin. Not because I consider him to be a world figure of such eminent stature; on the contrary, as Russia’s first democratically elected leader, his legacy is at best a mixed bag of reforms and international gaffes. Political correctness may not have been his strongest suit but he was undoubtedly the most entertaining politician to take the world stage in recent memory. How many leaders can boast of a collection of YouTube classics, such as “The Best of Drunk Boris Yeltsin,” or “Highlights of Boris Yeltsin’s Funniest Moments?” Yet, in spite of his glaring weaknesses, Yeltsin managed to put a smile on many people’s lips. In my book, that is no small feat; certainly not for a politician. With elections hovering over us, yet once again, we should all probably pause to consider what defines a good leader. Machiavelli was a big proponent of fear. A ruler should be one who is feared but not hated. Love, he reasoned, can be too fickle and too unreliable to ensure the loyalty of one’s subjects – sound advice if we are in the market for a benevolent dictator, but my instincts tell me that most voters would prefer a leader who inspires, rather than one who threatens his electorate. Moses managed to lead a rather unruly mass of followers for 40 years in the wilderness, and he is venerated as the most humble person to have walked the face of this earth – not a bad achievement for a leader without the benefit of a Twitter account.
Unfortunately, a quick survey of today’s leading candidates is not all that promising on the humility front. Bravado, impropriety, indecency, graft – once considered detriments – are now overlooked as long as our leaders deliver the goods. The end always justifies the means is our guiding mantra these days.