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Linking mental illness and leadership

Aug 9, 2011

During turbulent political and economic times the key elements of leadership that heads of state must possess are realism, empathy, creativity and resilience. Should we seek leaders who are mentally unstable? So says Dr. Nassir Ghaemi, professor of psychiatry and director of the Mood Disorders program at Tufts University Medical Center. In his new book <i>A First Rate Madness</i> he argues that these qualities are often associated with mental illness and believes that successful leaders like Sherman, Lincoln, JFK, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. all had mood disorders which enhanced their ability to lead. Expanding on this line of thinking he explains why extremely sane men like Neville Chamberlin and George W. Bush failed to rise to the challenges of their time because they lacked the important qualities necessary to cope. In short, their STABLE mental health was a liability. Dr. Ghaemi contends that without the cyclical troubles of mood disorders, one may not be equipped to endure dire straits. His work encourages us to rethink our notions of mental illness as a negative and begs us to reconsider what we should be seeking in leaders. What should we be looking for in our leaders? Do you think that people suffering from mood disorders may be better equipped to lead during difficult periods?

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