Using a large twin sample, the international research team, which included academics from Harvard, NYU, and the University of California, estimate that a quarter of the observed variation in leadership behaviour between individuals can be explained by genes passed down from their parents.
"We have identified a genotype, called rs4950, which appears to be associated with the passing of leadership ability down through generations," said lead author Dr Jan-Emmanuel De Neve (UCL School of Public Policy). "The conventional wisdom -- that leadership is a skill -- remains largely true, but we show it is also, in part, a genetic trait."
So far, so vague. For those not entirely up to speed with the leadership mythos, it’s one of the holy cattle of management science. The theory of leadership, coming from academics and hangers-on, isn’t exactly John Wayne country. It includes the usual collection of quotes
and what can only be called a Machiavellian sucking-up exercise in flattery. Thousands of “My God you’re wonderful” books have been written on the subject, some more nauseating than others.
Leadership as preached and leadership as practised aren’t the same thing, as we see in the news every hour or so. As a culture, the leadership culture is an absolute joke. Thought leaders who can’t think, political leaders who aren’t aware of anything and financial leaders with the mindsets of two year olds are common enough, and they’re the benchmark for leadership?
The trouble is that the notion of a superior class, however euphemized, is also hissing and coiling in genetic science on a regular basis. The idea of supermen hasn’t gone away. It’s been turned into a commodity. You’re a genius, so buy this car, specially made for geniuses. You’re a born leader, we’ll get some more diapers later.
At what point does the human gene pool get some protection from this superiority-based slop? As it is, the risk of any genetic characteristic becoming a license for discrimination, positive or negative, is rising by the minute. These researchers aren’t offenders, certainly not deliberate offenders, in this case. They’ve given the information in a properly reserved, qualified way. The information is also at least interesting, more so than simply self-promoting.
The risk is- What happens when the nuts get hold of information of this kind? As it is, the ability to create social dichotomies out of thin air based on appearance is a media staple. What if this idea of genetic superidiots gets traction in media?
Don’t be surprised if there’s a surge in “Realize your potentials as a leader! Eat this GM food!” campaign in the wings. It’s actually from an old British comedy called Believe Nothing, but it’s also likely to be the Next Big/Bag/Bug Thing.