Leadership Training Shouldn’t Just Be for Top Performers- Lloyd Emerson Johnson

3 min readApr 12, 2022


Image from Unplash by mapbox

Senior leaders are the ones that often receive the most of their leadership training which so happens to be during the final chapters of their careers. Many organizations bend over backwards and conduct talent reviews to help identify and praise high-performing employees by offering them a multitude of services on personal growth and development. However, the individuals who receive the most development are also the ones who have had the most experience and arguably need it less. This is also known as the leadership development paradox.

A result of this leadership development paradox is that many view it as being excluded from those opportunities, which in turn creates disparities and perceived inequalities within organizations. Offering a lack of opportunities to everyone hinders leadership and personal development growth as many employees agree that the company has an obligation to provide them with a collection of opportunities during their position. Failure to do so can ultimately lead to negative experiences for the company such as poorer work performance, poor workplace culture, employees feeling unvalued and greater intentions to leave for an organization who can offer them those benefits.

Outlined below are three common but possibly problematic assumptions that underlie the leadership development paradox and strategies and outcomes for leaders to overcome those weak points.

  1. Assumption #1: Success Is the Result of Individual Effort

Many people think that one’s individual effort and hard work leads to success. In turn this would mean that the sole reason why certain individuals are not successful is due to their work ethic. However, whenever you accept a new position, all employees enter organizations with their unique set of skills, and experiences that contribute to the team on different levels. A way to address it is to offer training support for all employees no matter the performance criteria for eligibility.

2. Assumption #2: Past Performance Predicts Future Performance

An approach to addressing this is to assess particular attributes that are indicators of an individual’s potential for developing and building upon future organizational needs instead of basing it solely on their performance and track record. These skills include adaptability, willingness to learn and grow, which reflect the general desire to be a functioning member of the world who is engaged in it. These characteristics can be calculated by interviews, daily observations in the workplace, how they overcome a challenge, along with who they are outside of the workplace including hobbies.

3. Assumption #3: Motivated Employees Benefit Most from Development

Many times when organizations refer employees to leadership programs their goal is to have them leave better than they entered it. Managers will typically send the employees that they think are going to gain the most out of it. This happens to be those who are motivated to learn and are passionate about leadership and considered ready to thrive. Those individuals who may have the most room for growth are the ones that happen to be excluded from these opportunities.

However, those who are generally less motivated or interested in leading experienced over twice as much growth within their leadership confidence compared to those who “seemed” ready. According to research, the most effective method is for leaders to handpick individuals with developmental needs. This ultimately, bridges the gap between these different sets of individuals where both can still receive leadership development and grow in different ways. It is critical to a company’s success to ensure that the leadership development paradox does not happen.

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