As the promise of 2022 looms on the horizon, most people are anxious to close the books on what is likely the most unsettling year — from the pandemic to politics to supply chain shortages — we will ever experience. Strong leadership has never been more essential than it is today. To share their best leadership practices, Az Business magazine sat down with Arizona business leaders to watch in 2022, including Heather Kane, CEO of UnitedHealthcare, Arizona and New Mexico.

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Highlights of Heather Kane interview

IMPACT OF PANDEMIC: “It’s definitely been a challenging time, but what I think I’ve appreciated about going through this experience is looking at the resilience of our employees and our team locally. We obviously had to make some pretty big changes and we moved very quickly to get people into telecommuting situations, getting all of the necessary equipment into their homes, being more creative about how we handle meetings and customer interactions and broker interactions virtually. So, it was an enormous change and a big lift for us.”

IMPACT ON LEADERSHIP: “When I think about my own leadership style, I had a very specific approach. I felt like to build relationships, we needed to be together in person, meeting with our customers in person. I think what has really changed for me is seeing our ability to leverage technology in an entirely different way and the fact that you can build the same depth of relationships and the same quality interactions by being remote. So in many ways, I’ve become a more flexible and adaptable leader as a result of the challenges of the pandemic. I’ve also learned a lot about being empathetic and really listening to our employees and what some of their individual challenges are, so I could also try to address how we could help each employee independently.”

TRENDS TO WATCH: “I think as we move into 2022 and beyond, we’re going to see a lot more utilization of telehealth. That certainly was something that really changed the dynamic of how individuals interact with their health care providers. Because of the efficiency and the ease of telehealth and the lack of transportation concerns when you’re using telehealth, I think individuals became comfortable with that as a new way to access care.”

INDUSTRY OUTLOOK: “I really think there will be a continued drive to understand how to better manage and drive down the total cost of care. I also think using technology for personal health management and tracking and monitoring an individual’s state of health is going to be critically important. I think that’s really going to be at the forefront over the next five to 10 years.”