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A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness [Kindle Edition]

Nassir Ghaemi
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

This New York Times bestseller is a myth-shattering exploration of the powerful connections between mental illness and leadership. Historians have long puzzled over the apparent mental instability of great and terrible leaders alike: Napoleon, Lincoln, Churchill, Hitler, and others. In A First-Rate Madness, Nassir Ghaemi, director of the Mood Disorders Programme at Tufts Medical Center, offers and sets forth a controversial, compelling thesis: the very qualities that mark those with mood disorders also make for the best leaders in times of crisis. From the importance of Lincoln's "depressive realism" to the lacklustre leadership of exceedingly sane men as Neville Chamberlain, A First-Rate Madness overturns many of our most cherished perceptions about greatness and the mind.

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Ghaemi isn't the first to claim that madness is a close relative of genius, or even the first to extend the idea into politics. But he does go further than others...His explanations are elegant, too - intuitively accurate and banked off the latest psychiatric research. (Newsweek)

A First-Rate Madness is a sophisticated work of psychology, but it is also a gossipy work of celebrity history, a who's who of the eminently unhinged. (The New York Observer)

About the Author

Nassir Ghaemi, M.D., is a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and director of the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. He has published more than a hundred scientific articles and several books on psychiatry.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Although this book may initially provide some interesting reading, I find it leads to, at least in one instance, some premature conclusions without complete and accurate information. As another reviewer in the United States once wrote, the author: "contrives the data to fit his thesis". I think at least on one of the personalities he wrote about I could honestly say his thinking was seriously flawed.

In Chapter Ten "A First Rate Temperament: Roosevelt" the author describes former American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as someone whose hyperthymic personality "made him open to new ideas, and charismatic, but also, in the face of polio, hyperthymia helped him to be resilient, to rise above and better understand human suffering....His mind was agile and he did not recoil from the most terrible of decisions...He knew only people were hurting; he knew what it was like to hurt; and his personality would not allow him to sit still. He tried whatever worked and with that method achieved astounding success." The author writes that Roosevelt's polio "seems to have given him a degree of empathy that we've seen in other leaders who endured depression."

An agile mind? Not recoiling from terrible decisions? Increased empathy? I hardly think so and would STRONGLY disagree with that conclusion knowing what I know about the "rest of the story" as a Lithuanian-American whose parents fled their native country to escape certain death, imprisonment or forced deportation by Soviet occupation armies in 1944. Take Roosevelt's behavior at the Yalta conference in February 1945 as detailed in retired Lt Colonel Nargele's book
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely crazy 16 Nov. 2011
By Hande Z TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Ghaemi might be a first rate psychiatrist and teacher, but he ought to know that he cannot make a diagnosis of psychiatric conditions on any person unless he is the attending psychiatrist. None of the famous men he diagnosed were his patients. Consequently, he draws on facts from books and other records. In the case of Mahatma Gandhi's case, the author drew his facts mainly from Gandhi's autobiography, which the author (Ghaemi) suspected to have concealed facts. He then mad his diagnosis of Gandhi on the basis that the stories were true. Ghaemi also stated that a leader who is mani-depressive is not manic or depressed all the time, indeed, he is often "sane". If that were the case, how would Ghaemi know if the episodes or conduct of the personalities he discussed were performed during a lucid interval or in a moment of "madness"? In the end, some of his diagnoses may be correct, but without a proper medical and psychiatric examination, his diagnoses may also likely be flawed. The book's entire foundation was based on facts and history, which (as other reviewers have pointed out) have not been scrupulously checked, and is therefore suspect. The book was well written, but must be read with a dose of scepticism.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read 18 Nov. 2013
By Zachary
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Simply intriguing, the authors inter-linking of multiple case studies is understandable, yet seems limited. Overall I would highly recommended !
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