Book: Best Leaders Are Mad

Mania, depression may help leaders through crises
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2011 4:02 AM CDT
Updated Aug 22, 2011 4:22 AM CDT
Prof: Best Leaders Are Mad
Dr. Nassir Ghaemi says that madness can be a useful trait in a leader, giving them the extra energy or empathy needed in crises.   (Penguin Press)

People often complain about the madness of America's leaders in Washington—but what if that madness is actually a good thing? After looking at famous leaders from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, Dr. Nassir Ghaemi has concluded that being manic or depressed often makes for better leaders, reports NPR. "Historians have often not paid much attention to these features of their lives; they've just written them off as irrelevant to their leadership," said Ghaemi. "I wanted to show that these symptoms not only were present in their lives, but were relevant to their leadership."

"Creativity and resilience is higher in people with mania, and realism and empathy is higher in people with depression compared to normal subjects," said Ghaemi, who has just published the book A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness. "The problem often with mentally healthy, average leaders is—even though they're not weak in the sense of not having any of these qualities—they often don't have enough to meet the very high demands of crises." Ghaemi also speculates that one of the big problems with "No drama Obama" is that the current president might just be too normal. "And in fact, if he had a little bit of drama to him, it might be quite helpful." (Read more mental illness stories.)

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