Mark Prigg, Daily Mail (London), January 15, 2013
Leaders really are born and not made, scientists say after finding a gene that influences whether someone is likely to rule or be ruled.
After analysing DNA samples from 4,000 people, the team from University College London discovered that those with the gene were up to 25 per cent more likely to have a supervisory role at work.
‘We have identified a genotype, called rs4950, which appears to be associated with the passing of leadership ability down through generations,’ wrote lead scientist Dr Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, in the journal Leadership Quarterly.
However, he said that with half the population possessing the gene, experience and environment still played a greater role in gaining a high-flying job.
Researchers warned that companies could one day run genetic tests on job applicants to assess leadership potential. ‘We should seriously consider extending current protections against genetic discrimination from health care to employment,’ said the report.
The team analysed two large US health studies – the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and the Framingham Heart Study – for its research.
Some of the greatest leaders in recent history include Martin Luther King, 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.
Dr De neve added: ‘As recent 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.