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The genetic makeup of an individual can have a profound impact on leadership styles of bosses.
This is at least according to new research conducted by Kansas State University (KSU) and the National University of Singapore, which used two data samples (totaling about 13,300) to gather information on their DNA, personality traits, behaviour and professional history.
The researchers found that the dopamine transporter gene DAT1, can influence leadership and is important for reward and motivation systems in humans.
What that implies is that people who had a version of the gene, called the 10-repeat allele, were significantly more likely to have been rule-breakers as teenagers, doing things like skipping class or underage drinking.
These traits were however, positively associated with leadership.
“Mild rule-breaking is actually positively correlated with the chance for you to become a leader in adulthood,” said Wendong Li, assistant professor of psychological sciences at KSU.
“These kinds of behaviours can provide you with an advantage because they allow adolescents to explore boundaries and learn something new.”
On the other hand, the researchers found that people with the dopamine transporter gene were also likely to have negative leadership traits, such as being selfish and non-consistent.
“These people were less likely to regulate their own behaviours to make a positive change,” Li said.
“It can be very difficult to make a positive change because it involves mobilising resources to overcome difficulties and obstacles so that the change can happen. These people were not good at regulating behaviours such as being persistent.”
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.
“It’s like a mixed blessing – this gene can have both positive and negative effects on leadership,” he added. This implication of positive versus negative effects “really depends on environmental factors.”