Trump’s Mind: More Than the Sum of His Tweets

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Donald Trump’s ascendency to the presidency has led to a flurry of interest in not only his mental health, but more generally, in the mental health of world leaders. This past week’s commentary regarding Trump’s state of mind highlights the perils and challenges – both ethical and methodological – of predicting leadership behavior from afar, without having examined the leader.

Psychiatrists, including some of those who recently have opined about the state of Trump’s health, say they rely on a lengthy tradition of leadership analysis and political psychology. But on careful examination, that may not be the case. Psychiatrists engaged in such analysis ought to exercise caution, so as not to confuse leadership competence, governing style and political behaviors, with clinical terminology such as “competence,” “impairment” and “dangerousness.” It’s often all too easy to see a leader’s flaws, rather than the strengths.

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