Scientists have recently discovered yet another gene variant (the so-called rs4950 variant of the CHRNB3 gene) linked to leadership ability. They outline a number of possibilities for the gene’s function. It could affect “traits of impulsivity and patience”. Or it may be linked to personality traits like sociability, gregariousness, exhibitionism or extraversion. Or it “may influence the tendency of people to select environments more favorable for a leadership role”, like ability to stay in school.
The authors say the environment still plays a role in attaining a leadership role, but I disagree. If the design of a trait anticipates environmental signals, differences in those signals are inherent in the design itself.
This finding (and the fact that we humans differ genetically by only 0.1 percent) supports my theory that we each carry the entire set of human traits (leader and follower), with just a few master switches to differentiate us.
The question is this: is CHRNB3 a development gene? For example, a development gene like the SRY gene is active only for a few hours in utero (SRY is responsible for selecting our gender, and after that it is switched off and its effects cannot be undone.) Or is CHRNB3 a signaling gene, responsible for variations in “runtime” hormones or receptors, in which case there is the possibility that its effect can be later altered, intercepted, or modulated.
If CHRNB3 is a development gene, leadership is truly innate. If it's a signaling gene, leadership could be potentially influenced by runtime signals, either neurohormone receptors or environmental “situation recognizers” in the brain.
In any case, I think we should be moving away from a "gene variant for trait X" and toward the notion of gene signatures, or complexes of genes, that cause behaviours. I doubt a single gene variant explains everything.