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Did You Inherit Your Management Style From Your Parents? The Epigenetics of Leadership

Ok so is this a trick question? How you inherit things was fully worked out by Darwin right? It’s all about natural selection and that takes many generations. And we all know that Lamarck, who said that you could inherit characteristics acquired by your parents only in their own lifetimes (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inheritance_of_acquired_characteristics) was absolutely wrong, right also? So you can’t inherit a management style that one or both of your parents developed during their lifetime as a result of their interaction with a specific environment. Verdad?

Well if you have heard of epigenetics, you will know that science has moved on. Darwin wasn’t exactly wrong but he sure wasn’t right on this one. We now know that offspring can indeed inherit acquired characteristics

The evidence has come from multiple sources. Such as the children of Holocaust victims who we now know suffered from PTSD as a result of their parents’ experiences. (See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9672725). Recently we found out from other research that mice can inherit learned sensitivity by their parents to a smell (http://news.emory.edu/stories/2013/12/smell_epigenetics_ressler/campus.html ). Lot’s of other good evidence too.

This new approach to evolution is called epigenetics. We now believe that epigenetic changes accrued over an organism’s lifetime may leave a permanent heritable mark on the genome, through the help of long noncoding RNAs (see http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/32637/title/Lamarck-and-the-Missing-Lnc/ ). We now even understand the mechanism behind all of this, namely the methylation of certain DNA sequences (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1046202302000725).

These phenomena make it clear that things learned by our parent can be passed on to their offspring and even to the offspring’s offspring. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics#Transgenerational_epigenetic_observations). And that these changes change the genome and then can be passed on both epigenetically as well as genetically.

So what does this mean for people in the real world? Like people who are leading, managing and following? Is there a lesson for us here?

Well to start with, there’s a lot of research yet to be done and researchers are still working out what it all means. But, to take one implication, it does look suspiciously like your leadership and management style might actually have come at least in part if not wholly from your parents and that you might have had very little to do with it. That your MBA, education, leadership experiences shaped your leadership and management style much less than you thought, if at all. And that maybe your biggest unconscious influences on your leadership and management style actually came from your parents, or your grandparents, or even further back.

We know from modern research into behavioral economics and finance, including our own, that we all have unconscious cognitive biases that impact how we make decisions without ever realizing it. It’s looking like epigenetics is a key driver of these unconscious biases. What we think of as being our own particular and carefully nurtured personal style of leadership and management might in fact be a family style, passed on to us biologically without us ever realizing it. It’s just that we never realized it.

I personally like to make the distinction between leadership and management styles. Leadership style is about the big things like vision, inspiration and followership. Management style is about the details such as implementation, execution and process. Epigenetics looks like it impacts both.

But with our leadership style we are often more conscious about how we do it because we might (but not necessarily) be consciously copying from a public icon or a mentor. We are less likely to be conscious of our management style precisely because a lot of the details in the way we do things go under the radar, so to speak. So my personal view is that these epigenetic influences are more likely to influence your management style without you realizing it rather than your leadership style.

Of course this will all, justifiably, be grist to the mill of those who are concerned with inequality, and the issue of how the 1% benefit unconsciously from having rich, powerful parents or families. But that’s another story.

In the meantime I leave you to ruminate on what this means for the Oedipus complex you know that your maternal uncle suffers from, or how this relates to Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious.

Come to think of it, did Jung re-discover epigenetics? One for the psychologists to figure out.

 

 

 

Ok so is this a trick question? How you inherit things was fully worked out by Darwin right? It’s all about natural selection and that takes many generations. And we all know that Lamarck, who said that you could inherit characteristics acquired by your parents only in their own lifetimes (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inheritance_of_acquired_characteristics) was absolutely wrong, right also? So you can’t inherit a management style that one or both of your parents developed during their lifetime as a result of their interaction with a specific environment. Verdad?

 

Well if you have heard of epigenetics, you will know that science has moved on. Darwin wasn’t exactly wrong but he sure wasn’t right on this one. We now know that offspring can indeed inherit acquired characteristics

 

The evidence has come from multiple sources. Such as the children of Holocaust victims who we now know suffered from PTSD as a result of their parents’ experiences. (See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9672725). Recently we found out from other research that mice can inherit learned sensitivity by their parents to a smell (http://news.emory.edu/stories/2013/12/smell_epigenetics_ressler/campus.html ). Lot’s of other good evidence too.

 

This new approach to evolution is called epigenetics. We now believe that epigenetic changes accrued over an organism’s lifetime may leave a permanent heritable mark on the genome, through the help of long noncoding RNAs (see http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/32637/title/Lamarck-and-the-Missing-Lnc/ ). We now even understand the mechanism behind all of this, namely the methylation of certain DNA sequences (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1046202302000725).

 

These phenomena make it clear that things learned by our parent can be passed on to their offspring and even to the offspring’s offspring. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics#Transgenerational_epigenetic_observations). And that these changes change the genome and then can be passed on both epigenetically as well as genetically.

 

So what does this mean for people in the real world? Like people who are leading, managing and following? Is there a lesson for us here?

 

Well to start with, there’s a lot of research yet to be done and researchers are still working out what it all means. But, to take one implication, it does look suspiciously like your leadership and management style might actually have come at least in part if not wholly from your parents and that you might have had very little to do with it. That your MBA, education, leadership experiences shaped your leadership and management style much less than you thought, if at all. And that maybe your biggest unconscious influences on your leadership and management style actually came from your parents, or your grandparents, or even further back.

 

We know from modern research into behavioral economics and finance, including our own, that we all have unconscious cognitive biases that impact how we make decisions without ever realizing it. It’s looking like epigenetics is a key driver of these unconscious biases. What we think of as being our own particular and carefully nurtured personal style of leadership and management might in fact be a family style, passed on to us biologically without us ever realizing it. It’s just that we never realized it.

 

I personally like to make the distinction between leadership and management styles. Leadership style is about the big things like vision, inspiration and followership. Management style is about the details such as implementation, execution and process. Epigenetics looks like it impacts both.

 

But with our leadership style we are often more conscious about how we do it because we might (but not necessarily) be consciously copying from a public icon or a mentor. We are less likely to be conscious of our management style precisely because a lot of the details in the way we do things go under the radar, so to speak. So my personal view is that these epigenetic influences are more likely to influence your management style without you realizing it rather than your leadership style.

 

Of course this will all, justifiably, be grist to the mill of those who are concerned with inequality, and the issue of how the 1% benefit unconsciously from having rich, powerful parents or families. But that’s another story.

 

In the meantime I leave you to ruminate on what this means for the Oedipus complex you know that your maternal uncle suffers from, or how this relates to Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious.

 

Come to think of it, did Jung re-discover epigenetics? One for the psychologists to figure out.

 

 

 

Ok so is this a trick question? How you inherit things was fully worked out by Darwin right? It’s all about natural selection and that takes many generations. And we all know that Lamarck, who said that you could inherit characteristics acquired by your parents only in their own lifetimes (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inheritance_of_acquired_characteristics) was absolutely wrong, right also? So you can’t inherit a management style that one or both of your parents developed during their lifetime as a result of their interaction with a specific environment. Verdad?

 

Well if you have heard of epigenetics, you will know that science has moved on. Darwin wasn’t exactly wrong but he sure wasn’t right on this one. We now know that offspring can indeed inherit acquired characteristics

 

The evidence has come from multiple sources. Such as the children of Holocaust victims who we now know suffered from PTSD as a result of their parents’ experiences. (See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9672725). Recently we found out from other research that mice can inherit learned sensitivity by their parents to a smell (http://news.emory.edu/stories/2013/12/smell_epigenetics_ressler/campus.html ). Lot’s of other good evidence too.

 

This new approach to evolution is called epigenetics. We now believe that epigenetic changes accrued over an organism’s lifetime may leave a permanent heritable mark on the genome, through the help of long noncoding RNAs (see http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/32637/title/Lamarck-and-the-Missing-Lnc/ ). We now even understand the mechanism behind all of this, namely the methylation of certain DNA sequences (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1046202302000725).

 

These phenomena make it clear that things learned by our parent can be passed on to their offspring and even to the offspring’s offspring. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics#Transgenerational_epigenetic_observations). And that these changes change the genome and then can be passed on both epigenetically as well as genetically.

 

So what does this mean for people in the real world? Like people who are leading, managing and following? Is there a lesson for us here?

 

Well to start with, there’s a lot of research yet to be done and researchers are still working out what it all means. But, to take one implication, it does look suspiciously like your leadership and management style might actually have come at least in part if not wholly from your parents and that you might have had very little to do with it. That your MBA, education, leadership experiences shaped your leadership and management style much less than you thought, if at all. And that maybe your biggest unconscious influences on your leadership and management style actually came from your parents, or your grandparents, or even further back.

 

We know from modern research into behavioral economics and finance, including our own, that we all have unconscious cognitive biases that impact how we make decisions without ever realizing it. It’s looking like epigenetics is a key driver of these unconscious biases. What we think of as being our own particular and carefully nurtured personal style of leadership and management might in fact be a family style, passed on to us biologically without us ever realizing it. It’s just that we never realized it.

 

I personally like to make the distinction between leadership and management styles. Leadership style is about the big things like vision, inspiration and followership. Management style is about the details such as implementation, execution and process. Epigenetics looks like it impacts both.

 

But with our leadership style we are often more conscious about how we do it because we might (but not necessarily) be consciously copying from a public icon or a mentor. We are less likely to be conscious of our management style precisely because a lot of the details in the way we do things go under the radar, so to speak. So my personal view is that these epigenetic influences are more likely to influence your management style without you realizing it rather than your leadership style.

 

Of course this will all, justifiably, be grist to the mill of those who are concerned with inequality, and the issue of how the 1% benefit unconsciously from having rich, powerful parents or families. But that’s another story.

 

In the meantime I leave you to ruminate on what this means for the Oedipus complex you know that your maternal uncle suffers from, or how this relates to Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious.

 

Come to think of it, did Jung re-discover epigenetics? One for the psychologists to figure out.

 

 

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Thursday, 09 April 2020

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