Born Entrepreneurs, Born Leaders

150467656For years, I tended to deny or ignore the effect of genes in human behavior. I had an environmentalist view that said our behaviors were shaped by our experiences.

Today I still believe this, but with a slight change. Genes provide the starting points of behavior, create tendencies and increase the odds. “Born Entrepreneurs, Born Leaders: How Your Genes Affect Your Work Life” is a book by Scott Shane. Shane received a Ph.D. from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His previous faculty appointments include the University of Maryland, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Georgia Institute of Technology.In this book Shane argues that our DNA affects pretty much all aspects of behavior, from educational performance to job satisfaction to entrepreneurship. For example, numerous studies reported in his book have shown that genes account for a big portion of the difference between people in both intelligence and personality.

More than half of the variance between people’s scores on both IQ assessments and the OCEAN model of personality are genetic. The OCEAN model is also known as the Big Five model of personality. It is made up of the dimensions of openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism, which spell the acronym OCEAN.
The most straightforward way your genes influence your behavior is through direct physiological effects. For instance, you might be more likely than other people to be good at interior design because you have the variants of genes that control the production of brain cells responsible for spatial recognition. Another example is that serotonin levels influence how people feel physically in response to taking chances. As a result, some people might take riskier decisions than others, such as quitting a job without having another one lined up or buying speculative stocks, because they have a particular version of the genes that influence the amount of serotonin that their brains produce.
Genes that control the production of hormones such as testosterone also matter. Testosterone levels affect how much we want to dominate others; some of us might be less willing to work cooperatively as part of a project team because we have versions of genes that cause our bodies to produce higher levels of testosterone than other people who don’t have those genetic variants.
Leadership is a good example of a genetic endowment that influences our behavior through its impacts on personality. Researchers have shown that self-confidence affects our chances of becoming a leader because leaders need to stick to their positions. But where does this self-confidence come from? While some of it comes from life experiences and parental upbringing, some of it comes from having a certain genetic composition.
One could easily think of parallels to this type of interaction between genetic variants and external factors in the business world. Some researchers, including Shane, believe that the most important way our genes affect our work life is in our interactions with environmental forces.
Suppose you were born with versions of certain genes that made you better than others at math. Your genetic gift would lead you to gravitate toward mathematics at school because you enjoyed the positive feedback that your parents and teachers provided when you did well in math. Your quantitative skills made you a good student and you went to college. At college you majored in finance, which you found easy. After graduation you started to work as a finance specialist for a multinational company. Twenty years later you became chief financial officer. Your overall business success was dependent on your genetic inheritance.
“Born Entrepreneurs, Born Leaders: How Your Genes Affect Your Work Life” is a book full of surprises about business life and the influences that genes have on it.

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