Gale Jake'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
Jul 22, 2012

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Insightful in its basic concept, ie: leaders who tend toward manic are good in times of crisis, poor in times of peace and tranquility. Leaders who tend toward depression are good in times of peace and normal times, poor in times of crisis. He makes some good points.

His approach was to focus on the psychological history of leaders versus the actions of the leaders. What impact did the leader's state of mind have on the actions and outcome? Why did they behave as they did?

After a good start, the book delved into examples of a number of famous (and not so famous) leaders. I thought that this central portion of the book was disjointed, fuzzy and poorly written individual leaders' personalities were analyzed. It felt like the book was written by two different people, or edited in some sections but not in others. I wanted to like the book as a study in interesting people such as Ted Turner, JFK, Sherman, Churchill, William T. Sherman, but it fell apart for me in the middle of the book.

The author presents an interesting concept. Historians interpret people's motives and intentions, psychologists interpret people's motives and intentions. Both research history, but each from a different perspective.

My observations in the entrepreneurial community that I'm involved in is that many of the risk-takers who create start-up companies are all a little bit "crazy" and often unrealistic. The chances for success are often not based on objective analysis. Most fail, a few strike it big. Sometimes the risks are taken due the naivety of young age, but they are often driven by a hyper personality. Ted Turner was used as an example, but psychiatrists have not agreed on his mental health (or illness), thus, it was in inconclusive example.

As the book states, sometimes being a little crazy can be good when it comes to leadership. I wish the examples of individuals had been more succinct.
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