Tag Archives: Nassir Ghaemi

Nassir Ghaemi on leadership and mental illness

NPR.org looks at Nassir Ghaemi’s new book on leadership and mental illness, mentioned on this blog earlier this month.  Lincoln is one of the historical figures included in Ghaemi’s study.

Ghaemi says a lot of research shows that there are some benefits to mania and depression.

“Creativity and resilience is higher in people with mania and realism and empathy is higher in people with depression compared to normal subjects,” he says. “The problem often with mentally healthy, average leaders is — even though they’re not weak in the sense of not having any of these qualities — they often don’t have enough to meet the very high demands of crises.”

Ghaemi explains that one of the reasons mentally healthy people might actually have a disadvantage when trying to navigate a crisis is that most of the time, the average person has what psychologists call a “mild positive illusion.”

“We think that we’re slightly more intelligent, slightly better looking, than we really are,” Ghaemi says. “We tend to overestimate our control over our environment. And that can be quite fine under normal circumstances. That may actually help us to get more done because of that confidence, but a political leader needs to be realistic rather than just optimistic for the sake of optimism.”

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Does mental illness produce good leaders?

Nassir Ghaemi, a psychiatrist who also holds a BA in history, argues that mental illness can actually give leaders an advantage in managing crisis situations in his new book, A First-Rate Madness.  Lincoln is one of the examples discussed in the book, drawing on the widely-accepted theory that he suffered from depression.

You can read an advance review of Ghaemi’s book at the Boston Globe‘s website.

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Filed under Lincoln Historiography