If you feel like something sweet then click on that as you read on about the debate which has raged since before I first studied psychology. It is the vexed question of nature versus nurture. It is again being raised, but this time in a business management context, linked to world of social media.
For instance, it looks as if Twitter has decided it needs more of a salesperson at the helm, as co-founder Evan Williams, @Ev, has stood aside for his colleague Dick Costolo, @dickc, to replace him as CEO @ Twitter.
This underscores the truism that different people are differently talented and differently suited to different management roles, such as entrepreneur, leader, creative genius, or salesperson. This revived my interest in the question:
“Why are some people more likely than others to be leaders?”
And the related question: “Are leaders made or born?”
To find the answer, I looked at some of the most recent work done in the field pioneered by Sir Cyril Burt, who compared identical with non-identical twins. Since Sir Cyril researchers have continued to regard this as a good way of separating the effects of identical genes with those of the same upbringing.
The latest work I looked at was that by Professor Scott Shane of Case Western University in Ohio, who has reviewed studies of twins in an effort to resolve the effects of heredity and environment. His work is reported in The Economist Sep. 25, 2010, alongside that of Dr Richard Arvey who examined the role of genes in leadership potential. Arvey and his colleagues at the NUS Business School were interested to find that wealthy and supportive parents tend to be more important than any genetic presence or absence of leadership potential.
The Economist quipped that there must still be some truth in the saying: “The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton”.
But it was Shane’s work that really caught my eye. He observed that some occupations, notably those in the creative industries, were strongly linked to genetic make-up, while salespeople were more likely to be the product of their environments.
Other work by numerous researchers has shown that salespeople tend to be optimists and radiate happiness. That can turn them into leaders, like Dick Costello? @dickc, because they build positive and productive relationships. Other people like them and want to do things for those leaders, because they make those other people feel happy.
And so this blog on social media arrives at one of the most important social questions for all of us:
“Wherein lies the secret of happiness?”
Stephen Brewster, University of Glasgow, is keen to synthesise some happiness into AudioFeeds that alert us to our social network messages and news shots. His team have developed a 3D theatre of natural and pleasant sounds that could be built into a cellphone app.
For example, Facebook updates could be signalled by a collection of joyful birdsongs, whereas stop-press news could be heralded through your earpiece or desk speakers as different bells, music and other happy sounds, according to the concept presented by Brewster to the Association for Computing Machinery’s Multimedia conference at the end of October.
So finally: Will that cellphone app make us happy?
Well, not necessarily, we are told in New Scientist, Sep 25, 2010, where Dan Jones summarises the research into human happiness by numerous social scientists in the words:
“Genetic differences account for about half the difference in happiness between people.”
Jones goes on to emphasis that it is that the same interaction between inherited characteristics and our social environment which explains the other half of our happiness.
To demonstrate that money does not bring happiness, Jones produces a riveting graph from www.happyplanetindex.org which shows UK GDP per capita increasing by about 60% over 30 years, while UK ‘Life Satisfaction’ wobbled along without much change.
To find out what does make you happy, you could log in to http://s.psych.uiuc.edu/~ediener/SWLS.html and measure your own ‘Satisfaction with life scale’. The web page also has a link to explanatory notes, to interpret your results once you have completed the simple test.
If you have survived this blog and its forced segues from one idea to the next, you have probably had a glimpse of the smorgasbord of knowledge that makes me happy.
Posted by Joseph Peart