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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness

Author and psychiatrist Nassir Ghaemi presents his premise that the most successful political leaders during times of war and other calamities are not those who are mentally healthy. Instead, it is those individuals who have suffered some of the symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder and other diseases both mental and physical that are most successful in leading their people through times of crisis. These conditions provide the individual with such attributes as realistic outlook (as opposed to optimism), empathy, creativity, and resilience. These leaders, including John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, and others, have been successful. Adolf Hitler doesn’t fit in with this group, the author contends, because of his overmedication with opiates, barbiturates and amphetamines. Other leaders such as George W. Bush, Richard Nixon, Tony Blair and Neville Chamberlain, while mentally healthy enough to lead in times of peace and well-being were not capable of command during crisis.

Ghaemi’s theories will have some readers nodding in agreement and others totally opposed.

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