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Are Leaders Born, Made, or Epigenetically Empowered?

This week, The Economist details the efforts of investigators who aim to find the biological basis for organizational behavior in the workplace. "To do so, they will need to weave together several disparate strands of the subject — genetics, endocrinology, molecular biology, and even psychology. If that works, the resulting mixture may provide a new set of tools for the hard-pressed business manager," according to the article. Using twin studies, researchers have shown that DNA can affect everything from extroversion to salary. In his investigation of whether leaders are "born" or "made," the National University of Singapore's Richard Arvey found that "the influence of genes on leadership potential is weakest in boys brought up in rich, supportive families and strongest in those raised in harsher circumstances," according to The Economist. NUS' Song Zhaoli "gathered and analyzed DNA from 123 Singaporean couples to see if it can be matched with a host of work-related variables," such as job satisfaction; his team found that individuals with a particular variant of HTR2A were more likely to report lower negative mood and higher job satisfaction than those who had inherited a different version of the serotonin-receptor gene, The Economist reports.

However, the article notes that critics of biology-of-business research suggest that scientists conducting twin studies are confusing heritability with environmental effects. Epigenetics, they say, could play an important role in leadership capabilities and job satisfaction, among other things. Still, The Economist suggests that "management science looks set for a thorough, biology-inspired overhaul."

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.