Can leadership be learned or are you born with it?

Steve Williamson, VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.
Monday, September 18, 2023
Can leadership be learned or are you born with it?

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Many people say great leadership is subjectively defined but easy to know when you see it. The real question is: are great leaders born that way or can great leadership be a skill anyone can learn?

Our business at eRep is evaluating and assessing personality. We strive to provide the most accurate and reliable psychometric and personality assessment on the market, and so far we've accomplished that goal with our flagship product, the Core Values Index.

→ The CVI is the most accurate personality assessment available today, with a 97.7% repeat reliability rating based on longitudinal testing.

Now that you've got an accurate and reliable personality assessment tool available, your next question is likely going to be: how can you use the CVI to better your personal and professional life?

One of the most common questions we get, especially in the business world, has to do with leadership:

Can the CVI determine if you have the right stuff to be a great leader?

Many of our business customers want to know if the CVI can be used to accurately and reliably identify job candidates that have great leadership potential.

All of these questions around the topic of leadership have a more fundamental question at their core (no pun intended): can leadership be learned or is it innate?

Is leadership something you're born with, or can it be learned?

What is Leadership?

Before we answer the question of whether leadership is innate or a skill that can be learned, let's define what leadership is.

Many people have their own definition of leadership, or to be more accurate, what great leadership looks like. Common themes include some combination of inspiration, motivation, action, and results.

There are other traits that many people ascribe to great leaders such as boldness (sometimes to the point of forcefulness), clarity — the ability to see the direction the group needs to go — and unwavering motivation.

Despite the common themes and even tropes about what defines a great leader, the unstated fact remains that leadership is largely defined in subjective terms.

Everyone defines great leadership a little differently. Everyone defines great leadership based on their own perspective.

Your definition of what constitutes great leadership will in part be determined by your own innate personality profile.

There are myriad different combinations of personality traits. According to the Core Values Index, there are four broad classifications of personality, what we call core values energies, and each person has a particular ratio of those core value energies within them. It is these core values that shape how you define leadership.

It is also your Core Values Index psychometric profile that determines your qualities as a leader.

If you are a highly innovative person, you will likely respect those who exhibit even higher levels of innovation in their endeavors.

If you are the kind of person who seeks to motivate others and get everyone pulling together toward a common goal, you will spot that quality in leaders and revere those who excel at it.

The Best Type of Leader

We have found that there is no single Core Values Index profile that defines the personality type of a great leader, at least when taken out of the context of what kind of leadership is needed.

In general, however, the combination of CVI core values that exemplifies the stereotypical "leader" as defined by broad consensus would typically be a Merchant/Builder.

Those who possess primary Merchant energy and secondary Builder energy are the most common CVI profile in positions of leadership. Their Merchant core value gives them the innate desire to motivate others and bring large groups of people into a cooperative effort toward common goals. Their Builder energy drives them to action and to getting things done.

However, this archetypical combination of Merchant/Builder doesn't mean that other core values combinations can't excel in positions of leadership.

The psychometric profile of the best leader is defined by what kind of leader is needed.

For example, if you need someone to run an organization in a highly regulated field such as cannabis or even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), you would want someone who dots every i and crosses every t. You would likely need someone with Banker in their primary core value profile.

If you need someone to lead a new company developing cutting-edge technology — let's say you're developing ground-breaking solar panels or cancer-fighting nanoparticles — you would want a leader with Innovator as their primary core value energy.

Yeah, but can leadership be learned?

We have discovered that there are a few principles that guide and shape the answer to this question, all leading to an "it depends" situation.

First, nothing beats having the right CVI psychometric personality profile for the role. The role has its optimal leadership personality and if you don't have that personality profile, everything will be a struggle and you likely won't have the level of success required regardless of your education or experience.

Second, you cannot change your CVI personality profile. It is essentially fixed at birth and deliberately behaving in a way that is counter to your innate emotional hardwiring will require a great deal of effort that will leave you exhausted, unhappy, and unfulfilled.

Operating outside of your CVI profile will feel like you're a fish trying to climb a tree.

Finally, apart from the alignment between your psychometric profile and the ideal profile for the role, effective leadership entails the use of a great many skills, techniques, knowledge and methodology that absolutely can be learned.

For example, if someone has the perfect psychometric profile for a leadership position, but has no training, experience or mentorship in leadership methodologies, there will be an increased likelihood they'll fail in that role.

However, the counter-example says that someone who has all the required experience and training but lacks the personality profile for the role will be what we call a reluctant hero. They might achieve their goals but it will take an inordinate — and unnecessary — amount of effort to get there (and they'll likely be miserable and burned out by the time they arrive).

Someone with the right combination of CVI profile and training suitable to the role will make it look easy and they'll be smiling at the end of every workday, eager for more.

The Answer

Ultimately, a great leader is a combination of the alignment between a person's psychometric profile (plus some training) and the needs of their role. The ideal leadership style is directly associated with the desire outcome.

Can you become a great leader? Absolutely! The trick is to find the role where your particular Core Values Index profile is best suited, then seek the necessary training and mentorship.

No matter how many books it reads or classes it attends, a fish should never try to climb a tree.

Core Values Index™ and CVI™ are trademarks of Taylor Protocols, Inc.

Go to to learn more about the CVI or to take the Core Values Index assessment.

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Steve Williamson

Steve Williamson

Innovator/Banker - VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.

Steve has a career in project management, software development and technical team leadership spanning three decades. He is the author of a series of fantasy novels called The Taesian Chronicles (, and when he isn't writing, he enjoys cycling, old-school table-top role-playing games, and buzzing around the virtual skies in his home-built flight simulator.

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