In 2015, a group of researchers from Kansas State University revealed they had isolated a gene they named DAT1, a dopamine transporter that only existed in a minute percentage of the general population. In their conclusions, they argued that those who had this gene in their general makeup were more likely to exhibit strong leadership qualities, particularly in individuals who ‘ruffled a few feathers’ as adolescents and broke rules during their childhoods.
They also stated that this gene was generally found in those who succeeded to the highest levels of management in companies, from directors to CEOs. So it begs the question- does our genetic makeup determine if we are going to be successful in later life? And what does this gene do for those who carry it to eventually put them in the top positions they enjoy?
DAT1 contains dopamine, the chemical reactions in the brain that underline feelings of reward and other areas of cognition. The brain releases dopamine when we feel happy, or use substances that make us feel good, ranging from sugar to addictive drugs. But, dopamine has also been linked to strong notions of leadership and notions of reward and motivation. Those who exhibited a higher level of DAT1 were often more motivated to succeed in their positions and rise through the ranks than those who did not demonstrate an active presence of the gene.
But lead researchers have noted that this gene has its downsides too. While the gene does influence the brain and central nervous system of the body, often an individual is more greatly influenced by their environment than by the genetic make-up of their body. In many cases, CEOs and others in positions of power have adapted their behaviour to achieve such success. Researchers believe this has a more significant impact on an individual, as the process of learning and gaining experience in the workplace can drastically alter the way someone leads others. They also discovered that those who did possess the gene often struggled with proactivity, which can make more positive changes in the workplace and adapt leadership styles.
So, does the CEO Gene really exist? The science suggests that, yes, DAT1’s existence in a person’s genetic makeup could contribute towards their future success. But, their environmental surroundings, education and adapting behaviour is also just as likely to have a similar effect on their ability to lead successfully and to earn those positions of power in the long term.