A First-rate Madness

A First-rate Madness

Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness

eBook - 2011
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An investigation into the surprisingly deep correlation between mental illness and successful leadership, as seen through some of history's greatest politicians, generals, and businesspeople. "A First-Rate Madness," Nassir Ghaemi, who runs the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts University Medical Center, draws from the careers and personal plights of such notable leaders as Lincoln, Churchill, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., JFK, and others from the past two centuries to build an argument at once controversial and compelling: the very qualities that mark those with mood disorders- realism, empathy, resilience, and creativity-also make for the best leaders in times of crisis. By combining astute analysis of the historical evidence with the latest psychiatric research, Ghaemi demonstrates how these qualities have produced brilliant leadership under the toughest circumstances. Take realism, for instance: study after study has shown that those suffering depression are better than "normal" people at assessing current threats and predicting future outcomes. Looking at Lincoln and Churchill among others, Ghaemi shows how depressive realism helped these men tackle challenges both personal and national. Or consider creativity, a quality psychiatrists have studied extensively in relation to bipolar disorder.
"A First-Rate Madness" shows how mania inspired General Sherman and Ted Turner to design and execute their most creative-and successful-strategies. Ghaemi's thesis is both robust and expansive; he even explains why eminently sane men like Neville Chamberlain and George W. Bush made such poor leaders. Though sane people are better shepherds in good times, sanity can be a severe liability in moments of crisis. A lifetime without the cyclical torment of mood disorders, Ghaemi explains, can leave one ill equipped to endure dire straits. He also clarifies which kinds of insanity-like psychosis-make for despotism and ineptitude, sometimes on a grand scale. Ghaemi's bold, authoritative analysis offers powerful new tools for determining who should lead us. But perhaps most profoundly, he encourages us to rethink our view of mental illness as a purely negative phenomenon. As "A First-Rate Madness" makes clear, the most common types of insanity can confer vital benefits on individuals and society at large-however high the price for those who endure these illnesses"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2011.
ISBN: 9781594202957
Branch Call Number: eBOOK OVERDRI
Characteristics: 1 online resource


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Aug 03, 2016

An interesting idea, but hardly more than that. Historians have noted that those who struggle with mental illnesses often make the best leaders in times of crisis -- even, occasionally, at the price of creating the crisis. The author provides case histories, but since the subjects are either dead or inaccessible, little backing data. It could be the influence of the illness, an ability to learn from suffering, or both, or neither. There are also little data regarding mental illness and leadership in the public at large, not because research has disproved the thesis, but the research has not been done. Psychiatric research has focused on the mentally defective, not the mentally excessive.

lbarkema Jun 19, 2014

This was a very interesting topic and concept that is honestly just hard to really prove. He failed to convince me in some parts especially for those with the hyperthymic personalities (to me that was just trying to find a way to prove that great leaders such as FDR and JFK went with his thesis). I would have liked to see more counter-examples for mentally ill leaders who did poorly in times of peace, and mentally healthy leaders who excelled in times of peace. Overall though, an interesting read if mostly just for the historical aspect and learning more about the individual leaders.

May 28, 2012

Agree with Lauren31's review. Fascinating look at some of the most revered characters in human history.

Oct 25, 2011

Very simply written. Does not go into the case studies as in-depth as you would expect, and does not forcefully make his arguments. Still, an interesting read.


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