Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet
S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University
of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.
In some respects, King of the Mountain can
be considered a companion volume to the author's earlier The Price of Greatness: Resolving the Creativity and Madness Controversy.
Both books report extensive statistical analyses of biographical data regarding
hundreds of eminent 20th-century personalities. Earlier, the focus was creators,
now, the focus is leaders. Both books attempt to document the costs associated
with the attainment of eminence.
In the earlier work, Ludwig showed that there was a grain of truth to
the mad-genius hypothesis. Greatness was positively associated with numerous
psychiatric disorders. In the present work, he shows that high status as a
nation's political leader is attained at a tremendous price. On the way to
the top, the leader may have to endure imprisonment, assassination attempts,
or exile. Even in democratic systems, leaders have to work their way up the
political ladder, often having to overcome election defeats. Once they reach
the top, the trials and tribulations continue, if not intensify—attacks
from political opponents, fallings-out with former supporters, riots, revolts,
rebellions, and assassination attempts. Indeed, a disproportionate percentage
of world leaders die violently, whether by assassination, execution, or suicide.
Given all these potential negatives, why would anyone want to become a head
Dean Keith Simonton. Leadership. JAMA. 2003;289(18):2431–2432. doi:10.1001/jama.289.18.2431