“The Philosophy of Personal Leadership: a set of beliefs, values, and principles that strongly influences how we interpret reality and guide our understanding of influencing humans. It’s our philosophy, our understanding, and interpretation of leadership, that affects how we react to people, events, and situations around us.”

George Ambler

The world is facing a global pandemic that is disrupting millions of lives as one third of the globe went into lockdown throughout March 2020. A virus has infected over 1.5 million people and killed more than 95,000, as shown by the latest statistics during the end of the first quarter of 2020. As we navigate this crisis with feelings of fear, uncertainty, and the hope that soon things will get back to normal, many organizations are starting to realize that things may never get back to normality. Traditional workforce models are being challenged to adapt in trying and ambiguous times.

The aim of this white paper is to inform and help those in leadership positions navigate the challenges of workforce development in a post-COVID–19 era. Traditional organizational systems have been disrupted the moment you were forced to send most, if not all, of your workforce to work remotely. Remote working in times of pandemic feels very different than during times of normality. The likely impact of plummeting levels of your employees’ performance on your organizational productivity will probably emerge in the second half of 2020.

Engaging both your internal and external stakeholders in times of crisis requires a solid foundation of trust and transparency, so the partnerships don’t succumb to the virus as well. People’s skills within traditional organizational hierarchies already proved to be a challenge before the pandemic hit organizations around the globe. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared burnout as an international disease due to chronic workplace stress, as over 256 million people around the globe faced depression. Evidence suggests that it is not so much the actual workload, but it is the organizational dynamic across workforces that is the real culprit for high levels of absenteeism and low levels of engagement.

Building resilience through the philosophy of personal leadership will be, in our view, the key for your successful build-up and reintegration in the post-COVID–19 era. The definition of personal leadership used for this white paper is leadership based on human-centric values and one that inspires action and fosters intrinsic motivation across the workforce. Because of COVID–19, many employees are now finding themselves at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid with high levels of physical and social insecurity [1]. Long-term insecurity leads to chronic stress which is likely to result in greater numbers of people suffering depression if left unattended. Now more than ever, people will need to learn to navigate their emotions as the crisis will affect them in different ways, and to different extents, but will leave deep scars nevertheless. Understanding the basic foundations of Learned Optimism versus Learned Helplessness, Change versus Transition and the importance of speaking to people’s feelings will be critical for your reintegration strategy.

We propose that you consider six personal leadership principles for your workforce development strategy that focus on putting people at the heart of your organizational culture and business model:

1. People Before Numbers

2. Seek to Understand Before Being Understood

3. Create Safe Space for Reintegration

4. Intergenerational Approach

5. Organizational Culture Based on People

6. Communicate, Listen and Integrate

To conclude our white paper and to illustrate how these personal leadership principles can help you craft a sustainable, successful and people-centric workforce development reintegration strategy, we developed a case study based on a scenario. The scenario uses the example of a previous non-pandemic global disruption as an example of how personal leadership can help your organization rise in the face of disruption. We understand that the pandemic we face currently lacks a benchmark towards which organizations can relate, assess and improve. But the power of human agency and adaptability has been proven over and over again throughout history. The power of human action should be at the forefront of any organizational workforce development strategy to build more inclusive and people-centric organizations.

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