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Columnists

Leaders into temptation

James Cary

James CaryIn many ways, Napoleon Bonaparte is a model of leadership. He inspired a nation to follow him, albeit in an unjust cause of conquest, and he did not lose a battle until 1815 where his Imperial Guard died for their leader. He also appreciated one crucial characteristic for leaders - good fortune. He is said to have wanted leaders who were lucky. Talent and honour were all very well, but they could be wiped away with a thunder storm.

Four years ago, Michael Vaughan proved himself to be a lucky England captain. McGrath's treading on a cricket ball and a couple of umpiring decisions kept England in the series for long enough to regain the Ashes amid national jubilation. Andrew Strauss may need more than luck this summer.

But does luck cover a multitude of sins? On current form, our MPs have plenty of sins to cover. Some stuck to the rules and showed poor judgment. Some failed to keep track of their own financial affairs and were found wanting. Others have no idea how inappropriate it is to expect the taxpayer to reimburse you for your husband's pay-per-view pornography. Even ten years ago, such a revelation would have prompted a resignation.

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Sadly, this is a government without honour. We're now used it. We are predisposed towards political cynicism, though we got excited in 1997 and haven't quite forgiven ourselves for letting our guard down. We thought Blair could be another Churchill who could lead us to glory. And we believed in Cool Britannia long enough to be really cross when it all fell apart.
Blair's charm and rhetoric could not save him. We may think that a speech can really make all the difference, but they rarely do outisde the pages of Shakespeare. Barack Obama's speeches have given him the air of a statesman, especially in comparison to his predecessor who, being kind, was not good with words. Or much else. His deputy, Cheney, was equally garbled as were previous incumbents. Who can forget Dan Quayle's mantra: 'One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that one word is "to be prepared".'?  Who needs eloquence anyway? All of the above survived and served as politicians. Bush and Cheney managed eight years; Dan Quayle four years; John Major won a general election; Boris Johnson became Mayor of London.

Is the crucial factor for leadership the ability to get things done? Some would say we need dynamic leaders, the kind you get in big businesses. And to attract these people into public service, we should pay generous salaries and expenses, not quibble over receipts.

But we don't really want dynamic business leaders running our country, do we? It was those leaders who drove our economy into a large ditch. And self-serving rhetoric is so ugly, as Michael Martin discovered when he spoke about getting his due. Increasing MPs salaries will attract people into politics for the money. These are precisely the people who should be discouraged from entering politics. We don't want self-regarding, sharp-elbowed Apprentice-style leaders - MBA mechanoids who spout business clichés. Ultimately, who wants to be governed by Alan Sugar?

Besides, this is not even the best way of doing business, let alone government. Business guru Jim Collins says research has shown that the best leaders, those who build-up and sustain large companies, are set apart from other leaders by 'genuine humility', and a passion for the work and the company - not themselves.

We want humble leaders who are not in any way self-serving. We'll forgive all the other inadequacies as long as they are good people. The fact that some of their crimes are not technically criminal is irrelevant. Alastair Darling making claims for personal accountancy services that taxpayers cannot is a disgrace.

The biblical qualities for leadership say nothing about luck, rhetoric or dynanism. They are all about character and personal godliness. Moses couldn't even speak in public. Can you imagine the Apostle Paul giving a press-conference? In Titus, Paul says leaders should be blameless, monogamous, sober, hospitable, self-controlled and lovers of good. Rhetorical ability and the ability to 'give 110% per cent' don't matter. What matters is kindness, faithfulness and good grace. Ultimately, we don't want leaders to wield raw power and get the job done. Stalin did that. We want leaders who live a life of self-sacrifice. Sound familiar?