Can Leadership Be Inherited? Scientists Experiment On Guppies 
Tue, April 20, 2021

Can Leadership Be Inherited? Scientists Experiment On Guppies 

Leadership is one of the most important characteristics a person can possess. Sometimes, people may be more comfortable in the follower position, but being a leader will give someone a sense of responsibility, accountability, and pride. According to the Harvard Business Review, students who had leadership experience in high school and college will be paid 33% more compared to their counterparts. Hence, parents today try their best to instill leadership traits onto their children. In new research that was recently published, a group of scientists claims that they have found evidence that leadership characteristics can be passed down from a certain group of fish to their offsprings.  


Leadership can be found in the blood 

New research from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom found that leadership skills in guppies of certain select breeding of fish can tell how likely they are able to lead a scouting party to examine a predator in the environment, as reported on Science Daily, a neuroscience and psychology website. 

The researchers created 30 breeding pairs of males and females who were most likely to lead and another group of 30 who are least likely to take on a leadership role. After the groups procreated, three generations later, the researchers tested the males and females from these lines and they found out that there is a significant difference in leadership between the two groups, in their original population and in their descendants. 

According to Sylvia Dimitriadou, one of the authors of the study and a researcher from the University of Exeter, they wanted to know how much leadership can be inherited from one generation to another and whether or not it is a characteristic that can be passed down from parent to offspring. The researchers have found evidence that leadership among guppies is partially inherited, but other factors such as social interactions, physicality, and environment also play a big part. 

Moreover, they also found out that males’ leadership tendencies appear to be linked with their other social traits -- such as lower aggression, which is measured as to how the fish share their food or try to push their rivals away, and sociability, which is measured by how much they move in other parts of the shoal and also switching between shoals. Meanwhile, in females, they found out that leadership is also passed down into generations but it does not have any observable changes in their behavior. Hence, there is a possibility that certain traits co-evolve or co-develop differently in females and males. 

Furthermore, traits such as assertiveness and boldness were not seen as a genetic trait that can be passed down into younger generations, which means that only social traits can be measured and differentiated upon between the two breeding groups. The guppies that were bred in the lab were tested on their reaction and behavior when they were faced by a potential predator. They were presented with a pike cichlid but they were separated by a clean pane in order to keep them safe -- the pike cichlid is the natural predator of the Trinidadian guppies. The team has observed that when the guppies became aware of the predator and the guppies who showed more leadership initiative was also the one at most risk. 

The researchers hope to further their studies until they can try on humans because this can be a promising topic -- their hypothesis that leadership can be a genetic trait. In humans, leadership is an important trait to have, especially if people want to take on a more senior role in companies and others. Leadership qualities are hard to instill, hence, if it can actually be passed down genetically, this novel idea can then be very beneficial for people. 


Other tips to instill leadership skills on children

Whether or not leadership is a trait that a person can be born with, parents should try their best to instill leadership skills to their children since it is an important life skill that they can use as they get older -- they can use it in school projects until they reach adulthood and hold leadership roles in their companies and organizations. Hence, here are some ways to guide parents on how to develop leadership skills in their children:

Parents should set a good example - young children tend to follow the actions and behavior of their parents, hence it is important to set a good example for them. By showing them how to be good leaders, you will also teach them to be accountable for their actions and behavior. 

Encourage them to be patient - patience is a skill and it is something they can bring into adulthood. Parents can teach their children proactive patience, which when they are intentionally doing something that requires waiting -- this can also reinforce their skill in becoming a great listener and observer. 

Travel when able - traveling is a great way to enhance the emotional connection between parent and child, and traveling does not necessarily mean booking a trip to another country but it can just be an exciting day exploring another city. This kind of bonding will let children know the importance of spending quality time together with their family and be more enticed to follow their good exemplary behavior, as reported on Forbes. 

It is okay to fail - teach children that it is okay to fail as long as they can learn from them and also be accountable for their mistakes. Good leaders are not afraid to make mistakes and they are also not afraid to get the blame for it.

Invest in their EQ - children learn their emotional intelligence (EQ) through their parents. When they see the kind of behavior their parents do, they grow up imitating the same kind of response to certain situations. As reported on Forbes, EQ is one of the biggest drivers for success in leadership positions. EQ accounts for 58% of the leader's performance and 90% top-performing leaders also have a high EQ.