Some say it's luck, some say it's hard work, and others say it's pure business awareness, but in reality our potential to become chief executives may come down to nothing more than the presence of a single gene.
Scientists think they've discovered a so-called "CEO gene" - known as DAT1, it controls transport of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. If you have it in your DNA, this makes you more likely to rise in the company ranks, according to researchers at Kansas State University.
It turns out DAT1 controls leadership skills - it's important in reward and motivation systems in humans. Having it means a person is more likely to strive for rewards, and that translates into hard work in a business setting.
But people with the gene are rarely do-gooders. According to lead researcher Wendong Li, those with it tended to be mild rule-breakers during their youth, since these are the types more likely to take business risks later in life. That doesn't necessarily mean adolescents who went around breaking the law, but they may have skipped a class or two.
"Mild rule-breaking is actually positively correlated with the chance for you to become a leader in adulthood," Li explained. "These kinds of behaviours can provide you with an advantage because they allow adolescents to explore boundaries and learn something new."
The team came to the conclusion by looking at the genetic make-up of more than 13,000 people from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.
While on the one hand the CEO gene could put you on the path to success, not everyone benefits from it – for some it can hinder progress, since having the dopamine transporter gene can lower proactivity, which is also important for leadership.
"These people were less likely to regulate their own behaviours to make a positive change," Li said.
"It can be very difficult to make a positive change because it involves mobilizing resources to overcome difficulties and obstacles so that the change can happen. These people were not good at regulating behaviours such as being persistent."
"It's like a mixed blessing - this gene can have both positive and negative effects on leadership. An implication is that it really depends on environmental factors to determine if overall it is a positive or negative."