The Latest News on The Relationship of Leadership and Genetics

Christian Burgos
December 8, 2022

The Latest News on The Relationship of Leadership and Genetics

Are you destined to be a leader? Research shows that people expressing specific genes have better chances of developing a personality more suitable to be a leader. In this article, we’ll discuss which genes are associated with leadership as well as possible ways to overcome your genetics to turn yourself into a leader. 


Do genes foreshadow an individual’s potential to become a leader? This is a question that scientists have relentlessly tried to answer since the 19th century. 

Identifying a person’s potential to succeed as a leader is crucial for a company since optimal leadership drives employees to work efficiently and perform at their best. Therefore, in an attempt to accurately pinpoint suitable leaders, companies are now turning to genetics. [1

According to research, the genetic makeup of a person can predict the development of personality traits associated with key leadership skills, including: [2]

Risk tolerance

Taking this into account, which genes are associated with these personality traits? If you don’t express these genes, can you hack your cells into expressing them?

5 Key Genes Linked to Leadership

In a recent study from 2022, researchers performed a genome wide association study (GWAS) to spot which genes are associated with leadership qualities such as intellect, risk tolerance, extraversion, and the ability to handle increased levels of managing demands. Their findings revealed five genes commonly expressed in leaders from the UK. [2

1. miR-2113/POUSF2. This gene is also involved in the neurogenesis, maturation, and migration of upper-layer cortical neurons during development. 
2. KLF5. This gene also regulates diverse cellular functions, such as proliferation, migration, stemness, apoptosis, and autophagy. 
3. ZSWIM6. This gene is also associated with the development of the nervous system, particularly for the striatal morphology (a critical component of the brain’s motor and reward systems) and motor regulation.
4. NPAS2. This gene is also known to modulate people’s biological clock as well as anxiety-like behaviors. 
5. LINC01029. As of right now, scientists haven’t found macro functionalities for this gene besides its role in leadership traits. 

If your body expresses these genes, you may have what it takes to become a proficient leader. However, expressing these genes may also be a double-edged sword. 

Some of these genes were reported to be associated with neurologic diseases. Specifically, miR-2113/POUSF2 and LINC01029 were found to be related to bipolar disorder. Meanwhile, ZSWIM6 was associated with schizophrenia. [2]  

Various studies show a correlation between leadership positions and brain disorders. [3][4] Therefore, leaders should also safeguard their health to ensure a sustainable lifestyle. 

Photo by Sangharsh Lohakare on Unsplash

Is It Possible to Override Your Genetic Makeup?

What happens if a person doesn’t express the aforementioned genes? Do genes foretell a person’s potential to become a leader or develop neurological diseases? 

It is important to approach each of these recent discoveries cautiously. A person does not necessarily exhibit a trait linked to a specific gene just because it’s present in their DNA.

In fact, people can override their genes by implementing changes in their lifestyles. These modifications at the DNA level are known as epigenetics. 

Epigenetics is a phenomenon in which the environment influences how genes are "read" by cells by adding an epigenetic mark to their DNA. This process modulates the formation of proteins and either prevents or encourages gene expression. [5]

From a neuroscience perspective, epigenetics is one of the main drivers of neuroplasticity. Epigenetics regulates how neural circuits are rewired by changing the way a person perceives and interacts with daily challenges. [6] Thus, regardless of one's genetic makeup, a person holds the potential to become a leader. 

According to researcher Jim Collins, painful life experiences can have a profound effect on how leaders behave. These experiences shape leaders into embracing humble leadership philosophies that increase their long-term performance in organizations. [7]

Furthermore, another study revealed stressful life events affect the expression of genes associated with decision-making. [8] Could it be that the terrible life experiences to which Collins alludes have worked as epigenetic changes, turning on the person's innate capacity for leadership?

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Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

Bottom Line 

Genetic studies suggest the expression of several genes is associated with the development of leadership skills. However, genes alone don’t always predict the potential of a person to become a leader. 

Moreover, people who express these genes should take care of their health since these genes are also linked to neurological diseases such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Lastly, even if a person doesn’t express any of these genes, they still possess the ability to activate them and override their genetic makeup through lifestyle changes.

What are you going to do to become the leader people always look up to? Join our WOLF Leadership Program and unleash your potential by using epigenetics, neuroscience, and spirituality!

Photo by Hert Niks on Unsplash



[2] Song, Z., Li, W. D., Jin, X., Ying, J., Zhang, X., Song, Y., ... & Fan, Q. (2022). Genetics, leadership position, and well-being: An investigation with a large-scale GWAS. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(12), e2114271119.

[3] Kyaga, S., Lichtenstein, P., Boman, M., & Landén, M. (2015). Bipolar disorder and leadership–a total population study. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131(2), 111-119.

[4] Hou, L., Bergen, S. E., Akula, N., Song, J., Hultman, C. M., Landén, M., ... & McMahon, F. J. (2016). Genome-wide association study of 40,000 individuals identifies two novel loci associated with bipolar disorder. Human molecular genetics, 25(15), 3383-3394.

[5] Riddihough, G., & Zahn, L. M. (2010). What is epigenetics?. Science, 330(6004), 611-611.

[6] Liang, J., Wang, H., Zeng, Y., Qu, Y., Liu, Q., Zhao, F., ... & Mu, D. (2021). Physical exercise promotes brain remodeling by regulating epigenetics, neuroplasticity and neurotrophins. Reviews in the Neurosciences, 32(6), 615-629.

[7] Collins, J. (2006). Level 5 leadership: The triumph of humility and fierce resolve. Managing innovation and change, 234.

[8] He, Q., Xue, G., Chen, C., Lu, Z. L., Chen, C., Lei, X., ... & Bechara, A. (2012). COMT Val158Met polymorphism interacts with stressful life events and parental warmth to influence decision making. Scientific Reports, 2(1), 1-6.