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A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness by Nassir Ghaemi
Just finished reading this book about the links between great leaders in history and their mental illness. The main conclusion of this book is that mentally ill leaders perform better during crisis and suffer during peace time while mentally healthy leaders perform better during peace time while they suffer during crisis.
This makes sense, after all certain leaders are good during certain periods. This book focuses mainly on politics in recent history focusing on different groups of people. Firstly the mentally ill 'good' leaders such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Franklin D Roosevelt, John F Kennedy, William Tecumseh Sherman, Winston Churchill. Then the mentally ill 'bad' leaders (he argues because of abusing drugs and treatments) such as Hitler. The mentally healthy 'good' leaders such as Tony Blair and George Bush before 9/11 and finally the mentally healthy 'bad' leaders such as Nevile Chamberlain, most Nazi Leaders (other than hitler and a few others).
What an interesting bunch. At certain points this book felt super sped up and reminded me of my econs essays when I needed to quickly finish up a paragraph when I had no time left. Certain sections felt way too brief and there was some contradictions to his theory and the reasons explaining them felt like really shallow excuses with not much to back them up.
However, overall I felt that this book was right in its main premise that GREAT leaders are typically mentally ill in some form whether that is through depression, bipolar disorder etc etc. This is because the general population during a 'normal' time is typically mentally healthly. Using that as a baseline, mentally ill people will not be able to lead properly during peacetime while they thrive during crisis mode as they are able to use the benefits of their mental illness strategically.
Interesting to identify 'mentally ill' and 'mentally healthy' leaders in current times as well. For example Tim Cook and Steve Jobs. Having read the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and knowing Tim Cook from his wikipedia page and a couple of interviews, Steve is clearly the more mentally ill leader who is great during crisis while Tim Cook seems calm and steady and is good during peacetime. Same could be said about Trump and Obama. One seems a lot more mentally healthy (is that a good or bad thing, who knows).
Also one interesting thing to read was about the stigma against mental health. Towards the end of the book the author talks about how throughout history it hasn't been a winning strategy to be open about mental illnesses which led to many things going on behind the scenes. Churchill's family was strongly against publication of medical information that said Churchill sufffered from depression as it would be paint him in a bad light and tamper his image. The same happened with the Kennedy family who oppposed the release of information about the medical history which revealed diseseases, mental illness and medication that JFK was taking during his presidency. So we probably won't find out too much about the mental state and what's going on behind the scenes of current or recent world leaders until their empire is toppled (like the Third Reich) or the leaders and their close family are all dead and a thing of the past.
Overall this book reaffirmed my belief that there are GREAT leaders for different time periods and that THE TRULY GREAT LEADERS who are remembered throughout history tend to be mentally ill ones who face crisis as those moments are remembered more than peace time. Also funny how THE 'TRULY GREAT' AND MORALLY BAD LEADERS will be remembered for longer in history than THE TRULY GREAT AND MORALLY GOOD LEADERS because humans tend to focus on negatives rather than the positives.