Do your genes make a difference in your career? Are strong leaders wired-up differently? This is a timeless argument and the question is as old as the nature-versus-nurture debate. A remarkable amount of time, effort, and money has been devoted to the study of leadership.


Two independent studies published recently suggest that when it comes to leadership, nature and good genes seem to be lending a helping hand. The first  study carried out by a team of researchers based at University College London, used a sample of 4,000 individuals to decide that a gene called rs4950 was present in a surprising number of those who held supervisory positions.

The second, carried out by Wake Forest University, followed 103 military leaders who underwent psychological and neurological tests. The conclusion was that leaders exhibit different brain activity in their frontal and prefrontal lobes when compared to subjects who were not in a leadership role—suggesting that their brains were wired up differently.

One things for certain, people know effective leadership when they see it. And while great leaders may sometimes be born that way, there are certain traits that great leaders share in common that anyone can practice and adopt to become more effective.

  • Great Leaders are in a constant growth mode and never repeat the same day twice!
  • They poses Passion. A leader who has passion is driven forward from the Positive Energy it produces. Not high energy. There is a difference. Positive energy is productive and derived from passion for their job, their team and hunger to be successful.
  • Inspires to Energize Others. Ability to easily motivate people to do things they wouldn’t normally initiate doing on their own.
  • Demonstrates an Edge.  Is courageous and decisive. Quickly makes tough decisions and has the stamina to move their organization/team forward during times of fear and stress.
  • Execute. Great leaders function and execute with confidence. They intuitively know that not executing can sometimes be just as damaging. A mistake most great leaders wont make twice.

If you’re looking to hire great leaders, look for people that demonstrate passion, positive energy and ability to energize others. I believe those traits are hard-wired and seen in natural born leaders. Train and develop edge and execution.

Sean T. Hannah, PhD; Pierre A. Balthazard, PhD; David A. Waldman, PhD; Peter L. Jennings, Phd; Robert W. Thatcher, PhD.. Journal of Applied Psychology: The Psychological and Neurological Bases of Leader Self-Complexity and Effects on Adaptive Decision-Making: Vol. 98, No. 3, April 10, 2013