Jb's Reviews > A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness

A First-Rate Madness by S. Nassir Ghaemi
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's review
Jan 09, 12

really liked it
Read in January, 2012

Core argument is that mental illness enhances leadership in crisis situations, but a healthy mind hinders. Author, a Tufts University Medical School psychiatry prof, mines historical works to state that “hyperthymic” leaders such as FDR, JFK, ML King and Churchill when they were on a “high” were right for their times. They performed well under pressure. On the other hand, so-called “normal” personalities such as G.W. Bush, Civil War Gen. George McClellan, and British PM Neville Chamberlain did not perform well. MDs heavily prescribed steroids for JFK, so much so that early in his administration he was often incapacitated. But they determined the proper mix by the time of the Cuban missile crisis, which led to spectacular leadership performance. The hyper leaders all suffered periods of depression, they alternated low and high. A chapter is also devoted to Hitler. In the war years he was heavily drugged; his doctors didn’t achieve a proper steroid mix and thus a time bomb was created.
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