Dr. Nassir Ghaemi

A First Rate Madness

Original air date: July 5, 201310357675

The actor John Russell said that sanity calms, but madness is more interesting.

Madness is more interesting, always.

My guest today is Dr. Nassir Ghaemi and his book A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness surmises that in times of peace, you want stable leaders, but in times of trouble, it takes a leader – touched by madness – to undo the mess of mad times.

He says that the best crisis leaders are either mentally ill or mentally abnormal and the worst crisis leaders are mentally healthy. His book cites the genius and heroism of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy and links their ability to persevere to their mood disorders.

Now, to be clear, In times of peace, mental health is useful.  Leaders have to be able to get along with others. But great crisis leaders don’t fit in during peace times. His book shows how great crisis leaders are sometimes up, sometimes down, but they’re never quite well.  That is until calamity occurs, and then they know how to act. They lift up the rest of us, and give us the courage and fortitude that steadies us until the end.

Dr. Ghaemi is a professor of psychiatry and runs the Mood Disorder Program at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. He trained in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and serves on their faculty. We met and discussed this compelling thesis for the show at the University of Mary Washington in April of this year.

Thanks for tuning in.

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