Subscribe for a free infosession and find out how to become a Great Place to Work®!

Leadership Development For All: Why making leadership development accessible to every talent in your organization pays off.

Leadership Development For All: Why making leadership development accessible to every talent in your organization pays off.

Let’s start with a bold statement: Individuals who receive most development are often the ones who need it the least.
That is what researchers Navio Kwok and Winny Shen call the “leadership paradox”.

Here’s why:
On the one hand, organizations tend to recognize employees with a proven track record by giving them ample development opportunities because they have a capacity to grow. Given limited (financial) resources, organizations also tend to invest only in the ‘best’. They identify the ‘best’ by annual performance reviews and talent mapping and draw up a list of high potentials. Consequently, many employees are excluded from those leadership development opportunities, creating inequality, leading to decreased work performance, decreased employee engagement and in the long term a higher employee turnover.

Let’s have a closer look why making leadership development accessible to every talent in your organization pays off!

1. A "for all" approach increases employee experience

Investing in accessible training for all and giving employees the opportunity for special recognition increases the level of employee experience. Our research shows that Best Workplaces outperform others in giving special recognition (86% Best Workplaces 2023 vs. 52% non-certified organizations 2023). The best employers in Belgium offer accessible training and development (89% Best Workplaces 2023 vs. 60% non-certified organizations 2023).


Everyone has an opportunity to get special recognition


I am offered training or development to further develop

2. Boost your employer brand and attract the best talent

Employees believe organisations have an obligation to offer training opportunities and see this as one of the top criteria to choose their future employer. Especially for the younger generation, it is their number one career value! The most attractive career allows them to learn continuously (life-long learning, 90%), strongly appreciates them for the work they do (76%) and allows them to maintain a good balance between work and private life (74%).

Top 3 career values

top three career values (% of respondents who indicated this career value is important to them)

3. Deliver on your commitment to equality

Let’s dive into an HR Best Practice of our number two Best Workplace 2023 in Belgium: The Great Leader Pathways at Salesforce.

Historically, Salesforce based its approach to leadership development on selecting only top talent. According to them, this was the most effective way to build exceptional leaders. They held a formal nomination process to identify the highest-performing and highest-potential leaders who could get access to leadership development. Yet, they noticed that focusing exclusively on that target group reinforced unintended bias and limit the participation of underrepresented employees.
In 2022, Salesforce launched the Great Leader Pathways, which offers a democratized and customized approach to leadership development for employees, regardless of their level, title, or tenure. Rather than waiting until leaders are more senior in the business, they start at the first stage and provide a blend of business and people leadership capabilities from the first day onward. The programme offers “pathways” (i.e. learning journeys over time) and move away from single-point-of-learning events. Each stage has its own targeted curriculum that links the relevant skills, mindsets, and behaviors with leadership success at that level. Salesforce’s new open-enrolment model clearly delivers on their commitment to equality. Worldwide, 22.000 employees enrolled.



  • Jesse Sostrin, Dec 21, 2022: Want To Prepare Your Employees To Lead From Anywhere? Salesforce Reveals Its Playbook
  • Navio Kwok & Winny Shen, 2022: Leadership Training Shouldn’t Just Be for Top Performers
  • Kwok, N., Shen, W., & Brown, D. J. (2021). I can, I am: Differential predictors of leader efficacy and identity trajectories in leader development. The Leadership Quarterly, 32(5), 101422.
  • Vandenbroucke, A., Defever, E. & Buyens, D. (2020) THE CAREER PERSPECTIVES OF GRADUATES UPDATE 2020, Research report by Vlerick Business School