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Leadership is in the gene, say scientists

Date

John von Radowitz, London

A GENE has been uncovered that may help to create born leaders.

The leadership gene, known as rs4950, is an inherited DNA sequence associated with people taking charge.

Scientists accept that leadership skills are also learned. But the gene may provide the vital push needed to make someone into a manager rather than a minion.

Researchers found the gene after analysing DNA samples from around 4000 individuals and matching them to information about jobs and relationships. Workplace supervisory roles were used as a measurement of leadership behaviour.

The study showed that a quarter of the observed variation in leadership traits between individuals could be explained by genetics.

Lead scientist Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, from University College London, said: ‘‘We have identified a genotype, called rs4950, which appears to be associated with the passing of leadership ability down through generations.

‘‘The conventional wisdom - that leadership is a skill - remains largely true, but we show it is also, in part, a genetic trait.’’

The findings appear online today in the journal Leadership Quarterly.

Some of the greatest leaders in recent history include Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Sir Winston Churchill.

But leaders do not necessarily have to be heroic or good. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Genghis Khan were also great leaders in their own way.

The new research suggests at least the possibility that some of these historic figures were blessed with the leadership gene.

Despite the importance of the gene, acquiring a leadership position still mostly depends on developing the necessary skills, say the researchers.

‘‘As recently as last August, Professor John Antonakis, who is known for his work on leadership, posed the question: ‘is there a specific leadership gene?’

‘‘This study allows us to answer yes - to an extent. Although leadership should still be thought of predominantly as a skill to be developed, genetics - in particular the rs4950 genotype - can also play a significant role in predicting who is more likely to occupy leadership roles.’’

More research was needed to understand the ways in which rs4950 interacted with other factors, such as a child learning environment, he added.

Press Association

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