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Nature vs nurture: Are leaders born or made? A behavior genetic investigation of leadership style

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 February 2012

Andrew M Johnson*
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada. ajohnson@julian.uwo.ca
Philip A Vernon
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.
Julie M McCarthy
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.
Mindy Molson
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.
Julie A Harris
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.
Kerry L Jang
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
*
*Correspondence: Andrew M Johnson, Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario N6A 5CZ, Canada. Tel: 519 680 5997; Fax: 519 661 3961

Abstract

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With the recent resurgence in popularity of trait theories of leadership, it is timely to consider the genetic determination of the multiple factors comprising the leadership construct. Individual differences in personality traits have been found to be moderately to highly heritable, and so it follows that if there are reliable personality trait differences between leaders and non-leaders, then there may be a heritable component to these individual differences. Despite this connection between leadership and personality traits, however, there are no studies of the genetic basis of leadership using modern behavior genetic methodology. The present study proposes to address the lack of research in this area by examining the heritability of leadership style, as measured by self-report psychometric inventories. The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ), the Leadership Ability Evaluation, and the Adjective Checklist were completed by 247 adult twin pairs (183 monozygotic and 64 same-sex dizygotic). Results indicated that most of the leadership dimensions examined in this study are heritable, as are two higher level factors (resembling transactional and transformational leadership)derived from anobliquely rotated principal components factors analysis of the MLQ. Univariate analyses suggested that 48% of the variance in transactional leadership may be explained by additive heritability, and 59% of the variance in transformational leadership may be explained by non-additive (dominance) heritability. Multi-variate analyses indicatedthat most ofthe variables studiedshared substantial genetic covariance, suggesting a large overlap in the underlying genes responsible for the leadership dimensions.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1998
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