A "must-read" book for anyone who cherishes wisdom and insight is Democracy and Leadership (1924) by former Harvard Professor Irving Babbitt (1865-1933).
It is a work of profound learning, wide and deep, though without any complex scholarly apparatus. It feels more like a wonderful fireside lecture from a man whose wisdom you will find y ourself eager to absorb and remember.
Babbitt surveys the opposed and intermingled spiritual and philosophical ways and traditions of the West and the East from Plato and Confucius to the present, as a background to his main emphasis on the strengths and weaknesses of the democratic ideal in the Western world.
Perhaps the main message of the book is the failure of individuals in the West (and of Western democratic systems) to heed the need for humility and personal and national self-restraint by way of alignment with and discipline to an ethical centre in life (hence, the lack of leadership at which he takes aim in the title of the book).
In this respect he is sharpply critical of the "progressive" element in the modern liberal democracies which he shows is descended from the revolutionary work of Rousseau. The crucial change in Western moral life that Rousseau brought about was the transfer of the locus of evil, so to speak, from within ourselves (which requires what he calls "inner working") to society outside ourselves (which transfers the focus to "outer working" in practics such as imperialism, materialism, "social progress," socialism, totalitarian democracy, etc.).
On this note, and in a lighter but deeply serious vein, Babbitt includes in a footnote a little poem sent in to an Ohio newspaper in 1924. Babbitt adds that this newspaper poet is "nearer to the wisdom of the ages than some of our college presidents." I should say, perhaps all of them.
Here it is, and worth memorizing:
And so I hold it is not treason
To advance a simple reason
For the the sorry lack of progress we decry.
It is this: instead of working
On himself, each man is shirking,
And trying to reform some other guy.