The Verdict Is In: Statesmanship as a Leadership Psychoexemplary


The need for effective leadership is apparent.




My anticipated column for today was bumped once again, this time by an unprecedented societal legal verdict.

Given that we are in a particularly contentious and complicated Presidential election process, the need for effective, if not exemplary, leadership is apparent. But what kind of leadership would be best? History is strewn with both beneficial and harmful leaders.

Perhaps there is a term for a particular kind of leadership that is more likely to be of general benefit in the United States and some other countries. Could this be what is meant by statesmanship? Or is statesmanship an antiquated concept for a deeply polarized country that has seen the rise of populism? Technology, with its ability to enhance the development of cultish and conspiracy thinking, is another new modern influence.

The concept of statesmanship goes back to the ancient Greeks. One definition is1:

“Statesmanship can roughly be defined as morally excellent leadership in the polity level.”

The key word here is morally. Whose morality? Other definitions emphasize wisdom and skill in management. Ken Burns, in his commencement address at Brandeis, said that leadership is humility and generosity squared.

Going back to the Greeks, Aristotle identified 4 cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, courage, and temperance. Others add magnanimity, the capacity for forbearance and generosity (once again), especially toward one’s opponents, as President Abraham Lincoln did by including his opponents in his cabinet.

Time gives leadership perspective, too. Statesmen have lasting positive contributions.

Here is one set of recommendations for would-be statesmen1:

  • “. . . keep America grounded in reality”
  • “. . . American politicians must do more to defend our political system”
  • “. . . lead and govern on behalf of the entire American people”
  • “. . . America’s leaders must do more to clearly situate the work of politics and governing in American principles and history”
  • “. . . American politicians must begin practicing statesmanship as craftsmanship”

Contrary analyses and predictions also exist. One is a comic approach on how America’s politicians seem to have gotten dumb and dumber.2

After the guilty verdicts yesterday in the trial of past President Trump, we have a situation to watch for statesmanship of all involved political leaders. The results could at least indicate if we have current statesmen, or at least leaders capable of acts of statesmanship.

These same leadership principles would seem to be applicable to leadership in other fields, including psychiatry. At the very least, would not statesmanship in psychiatry mean that our APA’s own elected leaders would make a public media explanation on what psychiatrists can ethically discuss with the public and patients about such current political processes and politicians, and why?

The mental health implications of who is the President of our country are immense, starting with governmental funding for mental healthcare and research into improved treatments.

Self-disclosure: I was involved in a somewhat similar legal case some decades back when my immediate boss at the medical school where I worked—along with the county’s mental health executive—was indicted for being involved in a crime of buying and flipping expensive country mental health clinic buildings. I was called to testify against him. He called me for forgiveness on the Yom Kippur right before the trial, but I had been instructed not to talk to him. He was convicted, jailed briefly, and went on to practice in a rural area of a distant state, never to be heard from again publicly in our field. However, the case also decimated the relationship between the medical school and the country, causing harmful ripples to patient care and the education of psychiatric residents for many years. The losing morality seemed to be selfishly putting personal needs above the generosity of patient care and collegial relationships.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry and is now in retirement and retirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.


1. Stid D. A time for statesmanship. National Affairs. Summer 2021. Accessed May 31, 2024.

2. Borowitz A. Profiles in Ignorance: How America’s Politicians Got Dumb and Dumber. Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster; 2023.

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