Are Genes Getting in the Way of Leadership?
How genes don’t necessarily determine who you are

The debate on whether leaders are made or born may be answered in this article.

This may not be a concern as one of your 22,000 Genes is rs4950 – the leadership gene.  For perspective, earthworms have 20,000 genes and I have yet to see one effectively lead.  Are you going to let a little gene stop you from stepping into leadership or are you going to leverage the other 21,999 you have – or do you even need to?

It is true that genes are inherited and can be linked to our personality, body and health circumstance.  In essence, we may have every right to say that it’s their fault!  Epigenetic research is now unveiling that traditional gene theory is full of holes, literally.  According to Bruce H. Lipton, author of the book “The Biology of Belief” – which this article is based on, we have more power in controlling our circumstances than genes do – we have a choice.

While that contradicts what scientists were trying to prove in the Genome project – that who you are can be controlled through scientific intervention, it turns out that building the ideal human through science and gene intervention may not work as suspected.

Consider that much of how you act, feel and move is subconscious based on experience and learnings from the past – not genes.  Is it any wonder that we may struggle with required leadership behaviours if in our past we learned that behaviour was not acceptable or resulted in negative consequences?  What determines who we are?

The environment you create, the thoughts you have and the emotions you feel are of far more importance in how you lead.  The challenge is that we need to first put our current perceptions of how we see the world and ourselves aside – which is the hard part.

Who you are is based on pre-programming and resulting neurological pathways in your body.  These pathways were built based on environmental perceptions in the moment; “I think, therefore I am”.  This programming started before you even had a say in how you lived your life – your genealogy.  You then were planted in a ‘protective’ womb and mom’s environment further designed who you are through associated neurological signalling.  If you have a temperament you don’t understand, for starters investigate your history as well as your parents’.  Then the dots may connect.  This is why babies have a distinct personality even before being able to say ‘goo-goo, ga-ga’.

Could how we thrived in this world based on past perceptions be the root cause of limitations we may have in our current leadership ability?  Yes.  Our unconscious way of being runs the show and therefore when we try to change how we lead, our efforts may fail or we don’t even take the risk.  It’s like us wanting to drive a mini-van at 200 km/hour along curvy mountain roads with no risk of skidding.  The challenge is in the way the mini-van was created; its programming is incapable of doing that despite your best intentions.

So, what can we do?  Build awareness of how a mini-van operates and why.  Next, transform it to a Ferarri.  Re-write your program which requires changing perceptions of your current and future self and its enabling environment.  Is it any wonder that people who obsess about being a victim, continue to be a victim?

Understanding our past programming is important; as Bruce states, self-knowledge is self-power. Thinking and feeling what you would like to be like in the future is a critical next step as this is empowering — the very opposite of clinging to the past.  Re-writing your program takes time, effort, focus and use of the conscious mind.  Determine what kind of leader you want to be and take conscious and deliberate action. Be like playdough and recreate a new you.

Once your intentions are clear, the task is to watch your thinking, monitor your feelings and catch yourself when you are acting in a way that doesn’t align to the change.  For example, if you fear conflict and as such avoid it, your unconscious programming may easily take over despite your best intentions.  By catching ourselves out on contrary thinking based on pre-programing, we can start to question its validity.  Knowing the power of perception, ask yourself: “Is my perception really true?”  After this interruption in your programming, take the conscious action you want in order to create a new unconscious behaviour.

We may have needed the mini-van for our life, but the choice to transform to our own version of Gene rs4950 and drive the high-performance Ferrari is ours for the taking.

Kwela’s Leading Self & Emotional Intelligence workshop helps to open the doors to self-awareness by uncovering how our life events inform who we are today.

Glen Sollors, Partner