What makes a good leader? Is it his/her goodness of his character? His innovative way of thinking? In A First Rate Madness, Nassir Ghaemi explores mental illness and leadership. Exploring examples such as Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Adolf Hitler, Ghaemi explores how leaders’ mental make-up interacts with the situations that they led them in. Ghaemi makes a fascinating argument that those leaders with mental illnesses are capable of leading in crises where a “sane” individual would not.
This book was a fascinating mix of history and psychology! I enjoyed the perspective into the lives of several leaders. Although Ghaemi does a lot of retrospective diagnoses, I, as a student of history, appreciated that he kept within the lines. I also liked that he both contextualizes the leaders and the interaction of their mental health with the situations that they found themselves facing. Ghaemi makes it clear that leadership is not just about the individual’s mental health, but so many other things. I could go into so much more, but I think I’ll let you read it for yourself. I will say this: this argument makes for some interest cultural commentary-particularly in light of upcoming events– and was a treat to read. You don’t want to miss this one!