Dr. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve of the University College London School of Public Policy, who led an international team at Harvard, New York University and the University of California, said about a quarter of the observed variation in leadership behavior between individuals can be explained by genes.
"We have identified a genotype, called rs4950, which appears to be associated with the passing of leadership ability down through generations," lead author De Neve said in a statement. "The conventional wisdom -- that leadership is a skill -- remains largely true, but we show it is also, in part, a genetic trait."
To find the genotype, the researchers analyzed data from two large-scale samples in the United States, available through the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and the Framingham Heart Study.
They compared genetic samples of about 4,000 individuals with information about jobs and relationships and found there was a significant association between rs4950 and leadership.
Leadership behavior was measured by determining whether or not individuals occupied supervisory roles in the workplace.
The study, published online in Leadership Quarterly, found although acquiring a leadership position mostly depends on developing skills, inheriting the leadership trait can also play an important role.