'Mummy's boys grow up to be the best leaders'

Adolf Hitler always carried a photograph of his mother, while Lenin claimed it was his maternal influence that inspired his revolutionary zeal.

In a more peaceful vein, Mahatma Gandhi can thank his mum for setting him on the road to living sainthood by encouraging his vow to eschew the pleasures of wine, women and meat.

According to researchers from Heriot-Watt University, the reason for these important figures' rise to power and influence may be down to their relationships with their mothers.

They argue that mummy's boys, from George W Bush to Richard Branson and the BP boss John Browne, eventually let go of the maternal apron strings to become the most effective leaders.

Howard Kahn of the university's Department of Business Organisation said: "No one knows what makes a good leader. While some people think they are born, others believe it has more to do with education, personality or even height.

"We hope that by moving away from the trait and behavioural theories to look at people's childhoods we will be able to identify a single important factor."

According to research carried out so far it is people who have had a happy childhood with their mothers who are more likely to go on to be the best bosses.

By comparison, bosses who had an irregular or bad relationship with their mothers are more likely to be inconsistent and ineffective in their management styles.

Those who were neglected or ignored as children often become fiercely independent in adult life and expect their workers to be the same.

Previous research has already argued that childhood and adolescent relationships at home have an influence on emerging leaders during their formative years.

Birth order, family size and parental treatment have all been recognised as major factors in the development of leadership tendencies. First-born children are often given more responsibility, while the youngest gets more attention. Those with siblings have to learn how to how to work better in a group.

For many leaders the input of their mothers' emotional intelligence in their formative years helps them to learn how to motivate others.

The researchers at Heriot-Watt hope that by discovering the key to successful leadership they can help pinpoint potential high-flyers of the future at an early stage.

In addition they hope their work into the effects that mothers can have on leaders from the worlds of politics, business and sport will help teach bosses to change their leadership techniques when dealing with different employees, thereby increasing their effectiveness.

In putting their theory to the test, Dr Kahn and his team are working with 12 of Scotland's leading figures from politics, sport and business to discover how their childhood has influenced their successes.

"If we can work out what successful leaders have in common we might be able to predict who is going to be a leader in the future and train them to adapt to different situations," said Dr Kahn, who refuses to name the leaders involved in the programme until the research has been concluded.

"We don't have enough good leaders but if we can identify those with leadership style and teach them how to use it effectively then it can avoid personality clashes.

"People fail to be good leaders because they think they can use the same style for every worker."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Management Support Assistant

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Railway Museum, the largest of its ...

Sauce Recruitment: FP&A Analyst -Home Entertainment

£250 - £300 per day: Sauce Recruitment: (Rolling) 3 month contractA global en...

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Account Manager - OTE £80,000+

£40000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - Kent - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - ne...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project