There are three common, but potentially problematic, assumptions that underlie the leadership development paradox. That’s the bad news.

The good news? There are several strategies leaders can use to overcome those blind spots, according to Navio Kwok and Winny Shen in Harvard Business Review.

Assumption #1: Success is the result of individual effort

All employees enter organizations with their unique combination of capabilities and experiences, some of which may not be under their direct control, that contribute to differing performance and productivity levels. Over time, high-performing individuals accumulate an advantage: They’re more likely to be invited to leadership development programs, flagged as high-potential employees and promoted to more senior and high-exposure roles.

The consequence for the remaining employees is a cumulative disadvantage, where the low- or mid-performing individuals are more likely to remain at, or decline from, their current performance because they’re excluded from development programs that could improve their skills and capabilities, leading to fewer opportunities for career advancement.

One way to address this is to offer training support for all employees with flexible performance criteria for eligibility.

Assumption #2: Past performance predicts future performance

Consider the following two scenarios, which illustrate some pitfalls of this assumption.

First is the Peter principle: Within any hierarchy, such as those found in organizations, individuals tend to rise to their level of incompetence. When an employee performs well in a role, they’re often promoted into a more complex one. This performance-promotion cycle repeats until. eventually, the employee is promoted into a final role in which they can no longer perform well.

Second is the disruption to the future of work. In the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Future of Jobs Report, they estimate that by 2025, automation and technological advancements will displace 85 million jobs and also create 97 million new ones. As a result, organizations are increasingly faced with the challenge of identifying and developing individuals for as-yet undefined roles, making employees’ performance in their current role only one piece of a larger puzzle when predicting their performance in a possible future role.

Organizations need to have robust assessment practices in place to ensure they’re investing in the right people for development, such as scientifically valid and reliable instruments, an understanding of the organizational and business context, and qualified professionals to interpret assessment results.

Assumption #3: Motivated employees benefit most from development

A recent paper in “The Leadership Quarterly” found that the individuals with the greatest “development need” — those who are generally less motivated to learn or who are intrinsically interested in leading — experienced over twice as much growth in their leadership confidence than those who were most “developmentally ready.” By the end of training, the gap in leadership confidence between these two groups reduced by 35%. So, those who seemingly did not possess the motivation to learn or lead did, in actuality, benefit from investments in leadership development and, when considered in absolute terms, actually benefited the most from this experience.

One method for leaders to overcome this blind spot is to select employees “one for one” into development programs — in other words, for every single developmentally ready employee who’s chosen for a development program, include an employee with developmental need. This ensures that the leadership competency gap between these two sets of individuals does not grow and contributes to curbing organizational disparity. Although the specific programs may not be the same for these two groups, as their developmental goals may differ, they both still receive development, which ensures organizations have a stronger bench of talent.