304 Genetics & Leadership

Based on research done by Neve, Jan-Emmanuel. D., Mikhaylov, Slava., Dawes, Christopher. T., Christakis, Nicholas. A., & Fowler, James. H. (2013) written by Bethany Wellman, M.S.

What role does genetics play in our becoming a leader?

To identify whether heredity plays a role in the development of leaders, researchers studied genetic samples of over 1100 twins. To understand the importance of genetic and environmental influences, they compared identical twins who share 100% of their genes with fraternal twins who share only 50% genes. They collected information regarding participant’s traits, behaviors as well as details regarding participants’ jobs, relationships, and past leadership.

Findings show that inherited genes explain about a quarter of leadership behaviors. They analyzed genetic markers finding the genotype, rs4950 is residing on a special receptor gene (CHRNB3). The results suggest that what determines whether an individual occupies a leadership position is the complex product of genetic and environmental influences. While results do not pinpoint a precise connection of this gene to leadership tendencies it is hypothesized that the gene may influence job roles chosen as well as personality that predisposes people to take leadership positions.

Although environmental factors predominantly develop, inspire, and encourage leadership, genetic studies open new directions to suggest investigating new and different relationships between traits or factors that might aid our understanding of leadership and its development.


Neve, J. D., Mikhaylov, S., Dawes, C. T., Christakis, N. A., & Fowler, J. H. (2013). Born to lead? A twin design and genetic association study of leadership role occupancy. The Leadership Quarterly24, 45-60. 

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