Quotable football coach Vince Lombardi once said that “Leaders aren’t born, they are made.” Turns out he was wrong: For the first time ever, scientists have identified a specific DNA sequence associated with occupying a leadership position. Meet genotype rs4950, the lil’ guy that “appears to be associated with the passing of leadership ability down through generations,” according to the study’s lead author. “The conventional wisdom — that leadership is a skill — remains largely true, but we show it is also, in part, a genetic trait.”
Researchers from Harvard, NYU, and the University of California looked at data from large supply of DNA, looking at the career and relationship status of about 4,000 subjects. They found a significant association between rs4950 and leadership, which they measured by whether the person had taken on a supervisory role at work. The new research is published online in Leadership Quarterly.
The study doesn’t completely repudiate Lombardi’s notion of leadership as a learned skill. But the inherited leadership trait matters, too.
Does that mean employers of the future will do a DNA test on job applicants to see if they’re leadership material? The study’s lead author acknowledges that concern:
“Our work also draws attention to the ethical issues surrounding the use of genetic tests for leadership selection and assessment, and that we should seriously consider expanding current protections against genetic discrimination in the labour market. Our main suggestion for practice is that this research may help in the identification of specific environmental factors that can help in the development of leadership skills.”
It’ll be a while til you’re asked to give a blood sample upon checking in at HR for your first interview. In the meantime, at least we an explanation for Donald and Ivanka Trump — well, at least a partial explanation.