Monday, 16 January 2017

Is Leadership in the Genes ?

I have been doing some reading on Genes and heredity. I find the subject to be fascinating.  How are we made ? What influences how we look, how we behave, how we interact ?

 Is it Genes or is it our experiences and upbringing ?

The debate of Nature vs Nurture  has been on since the last two centuries. The term “Nature vs Nurture” was first coined by Francis Galton (1869) , the second cousin of Charles Darwin.   

He theorized that parents transferred intelligence to their children, who in turn passed these intelligent-boosting genes down to their offspring. 

He argued that the ancestry and a person’s genes were responsible for the characteristics the person possesses. On the other side, the social learning theory says that how a person behaves can be linked to influences such as parenting styles and learned experiences. For example, a child might learn through observation and reinforcement to say 'please' and 'thank you.' 

Another child might learn to behave aggressively by observing older children engage in violent behavior on the playground. In his famous Bobo doll experiment, it was  demonstrated that children could learn aggressive behaviors simply by observing another person acting aggressively.

Galton was also the father of “Eugenics “.  “Eu” means good and “genics“ means race, stock, kins.  His revolutionary idea to improve the population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics. To make it simple, the theory of eugenics talks about elimination of the “weak”, the “bad” genetic traits by eliminating the “breeding “ of the negative people !  

Sounds terrifying … !  In the 1920’s the American Eugenics Society campaigned for the sterilization of men and women in psychiatric hospitals.  However the most chilling of all implications drawn from this view of the natural superiority of one race over another took place in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.

Coming to think of it,  genes definitely has a major role to play in shaping up the constitution of a person – both physical and mental .  There have been experiments involving twins who have been separated at birth – they have been found to have eerily similar looks, physical traits like colour of the eyes, gait, hair, medical history and also their behavior patterns like their likes, dislikes, mental makeup, intelligence level etc .  Is it a mere coincidence that the famous litterateur Upendra Kishore Ray’s son was the famous author Sukumar Ray and his son was the famous author, filmmaker Satyajit Ray ? Similarly, is it just by chance that Collin Hanks , the son of Tom Hanks , is equally , if not better  actor ?

This brings me back to another age old debate : Is Leadership in the genes ? Some research say that leadership is found to be “hard-wired” in people till they reach their early twenties.  But similarly, many experiments have also shown that leadership can be nurtured by using suitable environment and reinforcement techniques.

It has been observed that families tend to have similarities in terms of individual family members moving into leadership positions.  Examples are  Presidents John F. Kennedy, George Bush, and others who have family members that have taken on leadership roles.  However, there is a problem of determining whether such communality is genetic or environmentally produced because families have both environments (e.g. similar wealth, educational opportunities, etc.) as well as genes in common—thus determining whether  leadership is caused by genetic or environmental factors is impossible to fathom.

For me,  as written in a few of my earlier posts, I go by instinct when I have to recruit a leader and while promoting a person to a leadership role, I go by my instinct as well as my observation. I find that if a person has succeeded in organizing and coordinating any game or an event successfully , he is a potential leader. If a person is open to feedback, has good comprehension ability,  good interpersonal skills , he has leadership in him/her.  If a person is not afraid of taking up challenges, appreciates others and has a good sense of humour, it accounts for his leadership genes.  

Though the ethical code of conduct in organizations do not permit asking questions about the heritage of the employee , but looking at the pace of change in the area of technology as well as the society, the day might not be too far off when looking up a potential leader thru an app (maybe) will tell us the full genealogy of the person , aiding the organization to take a decision whether to invest resources in him or not .

Will  “Survival of the fittest“ go to it's extremities and cast a societal holocaust as it did in Germany during Hitler ?

Scary , isn’t it ?

No comments:

Post a Comment