Genes may influence leadership in the workplace
07/04/2020

The right genes may help you become an organization's next president or CEO. But the same genes may also hinder your leadership path, according to Kansas State University psychological sciences research.

Wendong Li, assistant professor of psychological sciences, and collaborators have found a "mixed blessing" for workers who hold workplace leadership positions, from the formal leader of a CEO to an informal group leader. Their study focused on the dopamine transporter gene DAT1, which can influence leadership and is important for reward and motivation systems in humans.

"It's like a mixed blessing -- this gene can have both positive and negative effects on leadership," Li said. "An implication is that it really depends on environmental factors to determine if overall it is a positive or negative."

On the positive side, the researchers found that people who had the 10-repeat allele in the dopamine transporter were most likely to engage in adolescent mild rule-breaking behavior, which is positively associated with leadership, Li said. Such mild rule-breaking behavior may include actions such as skipping class, but it is not serious deviant behavior such as shooting.

On the negative side, the researchers found that people with the dopamine transporter gene scored lower on proactive personality, which can lead to positive changes at work and is important for leadership emergence.

The takeaway from the study? To become a leader and be a good leader involves multiple factors -- genes and the environment -- working together, Li said. Some influential environmental factors -- though not studied in this research -- can include democratic parenting, a supportive family, and a challenging and cultivating workplace.

Reference: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150519122305.htm