A First-rate Madness

A First-rate Madness

Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness

Book - 2011
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An investigation into the surprisingly deep correlation between mental illness and successful leadership, as seen through some of history's greatest politicians, generals, and businesspeople.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2011.
ISBN: 9781594202957
Characteristics: 340 p. ;,24 cm.


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Aug 03, 2016

An interesting idea, but hardly more than that. Historians have noted that those who struggle with mental illnesses often make the best leaders in times of crisis -- even, occasionally, at the price of creating the crisis. The author provides case histories, but since the subjects are either dead or inaccessible, little backing data. It could be the influence of the illness, an ability to learn from suffering, or both, or neither. There are also little data regarding mental illness and leadership in the public at large, not because research has disproved the thesis, but the research has not been done. Psychiatric research has focused on the mentally defective, not the mentally excessive.

lbarkema Jun 19, 2014

This was a very interesting topic and concept that is honestly just hard to really prove. He failed to convince me in some parts especially for those with the hyperthymic personalities (to me that was just trying to find a way to prove that great leaders such as FDR and JFK went with his thesis). I would have liked to see more counter-examples for mentally ill leaders who did poorly in times of peace, and mentally healthy leaders who excelled in times of peace. Overall though, an interesting read if mostly just for the historical aspect and learning more about the individual leaders.

May 28, 2012

Agree with Lauren31's review. Fascinating look at some of the most revered characters in human history.

Oct 25, 2011

Very simply written. Does not go into the case studies as in-depth as you would expect, and does not forcefully make his arguments. Still, an interesting read.

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