It’s a strange world we live in, growing stranger by the day. It’s a skewed world too, skewed by tweets, soap operas and reality shows where melodrama and charisma count for more than truth and integrity. And in this overheated milieu, where our blurred perceptions become our realities, we are obliged to vote for leaders, to invoke the vital power of the secret ballot. I believe it to be a privilege and a sacred, prayerful duty.
To judge by the outcome, we often miss the mark. Increasingly, I feel that leaders far and wide are chosen for their entertainment value over their gravitas and their ability to exercise sound judgment. The ultimate absurdity occurred in the Ukraine where the populace voted for a clown – a real one – to tackle rampant corruption and the sinister stranglehold of the oligarchs. Here, in South Africa, we suffered for ten years under the kleptocracy of a man who was a loss to the stage – who danced and sang ‘bring me my machine gun’ with gay abandon, to the delight of his tribe and followers. The older democracies, too, make unexpected choices. Join the dots.
It could all be so different. If we looked to the Word for guidance we would find it in abundance. In Psalm 15 there is a vivid description of the character of those suitable for leadership:
Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbour…
He who does these things shall never be moved.
It is all perfectly clear; though I hesitate to add ‘and simple’, for humankind is so easily corrupted or misled.
In The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine, Emanuel Swedenborg has the following to say about leadership:
Order cannot be kept in the world without having governors…to keep human societies in order. They must be learned in the law, wise and God-fearing. There must also be order among governors, to prevent anyone out of a whim or ignorance permitting evils contrary to order, thus destroying it. [312 & 313]
One, however, who regards himself as above the laws, attributes royalty to himself and either believes himself to be the law or the law which is justice to be from himself. Thus he claims for himself what is God’s, when he ought to be subject to it. 
We are reminded of Plato, writing The Republic in the 5th century BCE, when he wryly asks, ‘But who will guard the guardians?’ And over the centuries we, the governed, are still required to answer, ‘We will’.
In A Higher Loyalty, published this year, James Comey, previously head of the FBI in the USA, is forthright in his appraisal of leadership based on integrity:
…ethical leaders lead by seeing beyond the short-term, beyond the urgent, and take every action with a view toward lasting values. … Those values – like truth, integrity, and respect for others – serve as external reference points for ethical leaders to make decisions, especially hard decisions in which there is no easy or good option. Those values are more important than what may pass for prevailing wisdom or the groupthink of a tribe. Without a fundamental commitment to the truth – especially in our public institutions and those who lead them – we are lost.
So, time and time again we are enjoined by the wise to submit our leaders to the truth-and-integrity test in our minds. Then, and only then, can we discount mere appeal and make powerful choices as we pray, ‘Thy will be done.’