Are leaders born or made? (2014); Image source: Leadaprenuer.com
This week’s discussion of the Psychodynamic theory got me thinking about a commonly asked question in leadership, are leaders born or made? The ideas underlying the Psychodynamic theory lean towards, made. The first two concepts in the Psychodynamic theory, family of origin and maturation or individuation support the idea that a leader is made. These concepts revolve around the idea that one’s leadership skills start the day they are born with their parents being their first leadership example (PSU, 2014, pg.3). In the maturation or individuation stage, key developments are made in relationship to authority figures and intimacy, reflecting ones’ leadership styles in the future (PSU, 2014, pg.5). Psychodynamic theory supports that leaders are “made”, made through their upbringing, their relationship influences, and through psychological understanding, aka repression and the shadow self.
In researching whether leaders are born or made, I learned about genotype rs4950. Dr. De Neve (UCL School of Public Policy) and his colleagues analyzed and compared approximately 4,000 genetic samples with jobs and relationships. They concluded that a significant relationship existed between rs4950 and leadership (University College London, 2013). What does this discovery for the “leadership” gene mean? This could change the world of recruitment and hiring. In a weak economy and high unemployment, competition heightens. Applicants could get tested for this gene and add to their resume.
This discovery could also change how we choose our mates. An international team composed of academics from Harvard, NYU, and University of California using a large twin sample, predicted that a quarter of the observed variation in leadership behavior between individuals can be explained by genes passed down by their parents (University College London, 2013). People with the genotype rs4950 could now began seeking each other out, mating exclusively to create genetically superior children with this leadership gene.
Though much research needs to be done on this topic, this discovery is exciting to the world of leadership theory. Perhaps we will find more genotypes that are significantly linked with good leadership behaviors. This could help identify good leaders earlier; helping give them the “environment” needed to nurture and grow their innate leadership abilities, producing a top breed of leaders.
Psychodynamic theory has caught a lot of slack, due to fact it is not “testable” or its inability to operationally define traits and characteristics. For example, how does one scientifically test for a “warrior” or a “magician.? It would be interesting to see what the critics of the psychodynamic theory have to say about rs4950. Testing for a gene and comparing it to specifically defined leadership traits should satisfy their need for a more modern scientific link. Technology is changing the development of theories. Perhaps one day, future students taking this course will have a new theory to study- one involving how leaders, are in fact, born.
Written by: Mai Dolinh
Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2014). PSYCH 485. Lesson 3:
Psychodynamic Approach. Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/fa14/
University College London (2013). Born to lead? Leadership can be an inherited trait, study finds. Science Daily. Retrieved September 10th, 2014 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130115111553.htm