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Ghaemi (psychiatry, Tufts Univ.) argues that the best leaders in times of crisis are not the most "normal" but those who've allegedly suffered from some sort of mental illness, such as Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill (depression), Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy (hyperthymia-a sort of slightly manic temperament), and Gen. William T. Sherman (bipolar disorder). While it has previously been noted by many historians that Churchill's depressions and (paradoxically) Roosevelt's upbeat demeanor both were instrumental in rallying their countries, Ghaemi also argues that leaders such as Tony Blair, George W. Bush, and Richard Nixon failed precisely because they were so well adjusted. While this book is an intriguing read, it does not satisfactorily answer the many questions it raises, such as "What is normality?" and "What is and isn't a crisis?" VERDICT Readers who want to explore the relationship between mental illness and achievement would be better off with Kay Redfield Jamison's Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament.-Mary Ann Hughes, Shelton, WA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
In a time of crisis, who should run the show. Surprisingly, Ghaemi (Tufts Univ. School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and a practicing physician) argues the best choice might be someone with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, or some degree of either of these mental illnesses. A psychiatrist who has specialized in the study and treatment of mood disorders, Ghaemi makes a fairly strong case for his thesis, which is that features of mood disorders can be advantageous to leaders during critical situations. He does this by comparing the lives of present and past leaders--in politics and industry, with or without some form of mood disorder. However, he includes more examples of those on the mental-illness spectrum than those not on it, which weakens his argument. In general, he tends to use stigmatizing language, which reduces the humanity of those who live with a mental disorder. Still, one can see his desire to start a philosophical dialogue on the subject. An interesting, thought-provoking read that challenges societal ideas about mental illness in life and in leadership. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers. A. L. Bizub Elmira College
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
In times of crisis, psychiatrist Ghaemi thinks, the best leaders are those with bipolar or manic-depressive symptoms. He derives this counterintuitive conclusion from a sample consisting of 12 famous men, including William Sherman, Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, FDR, JFK, and Ted Turner, whose biographies he combs for evidence of mental abnormalities and whose personalities he contrasts with those of such leaders he regards as psychologically normal as Neville Chamberlain, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush. From measuring the first group against a roster of diagnostic indicators of mental instability including sleeplessness, loquaciousness, and sexual recklessness, Ghaemi elides into traits he argues characterize the successful crisis leader: realism, resilience, empathy, creativity. Those arise from life experience of depression, suicidal thoughts, or physical illness (polio in FDR's case, Addison's disease in JFK's). Flouting conventional wisdom that sanity is a sine qua non for leadership, Ghaemi's provocative thesis won't convince politicos to coin new slogans ( We're in a rut, vote for the nut! ) but should attract popular biography and history fans.--Taylor, Gilber. Copyright 2010 Booklist