Born to lead? A twin design and genetic association study of leadership role occupancy

Jan Emmanuel De Neve, Slava Mikhaylov, Christopher T. Dawes, Nicholas A. Christakis, James H. Fowler

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    We address leadership emergence and the possibility that there is a partially innate predisposition to occupy a leadership role. Employing twin design methods on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we estimate the heritability of leadership role occupancy at 24%. Twin studies do not point to specific genes or neurological processes that might be involved. We therefore also conduct association analysis on the available genetic markers. The results show that leadership role occupancy is associated with rs4950, a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) residing on a neuronal acetylcholine receptor gene (CHRNB3). We replicate this family-based genetic association result on an independent sample in the Framingham Heart Study. This is the first study to identify a specific genotype associated with the tendency to occupy a leadership position. The results suggest that what determines whether an individual occupies a leadership position is the complex product of genetic and environmental influences, with a particular role for rs4950.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)45-60
    Number of pages16
    JournalLeadership Quarterly
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Feb 2013


    • Genetic association study
    • Leadership role occupancy
    • Twin design

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Business and International Management
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Applied Psychology
    • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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