Skills to Lead Are Skills to Succeed

When Karen Kocher, the Chief Learning Officer at Cigna, arrived at Colorado Technical University for a CTU Presents discussion, her years of industry experience promised an enlightening conversation about the health care field. But the lessons she imparted went far beyond the realm of health care to apply to businesses everywhere. 

CTU Presents Karen Kocher - Leadership SkillsThe world, as anyone will tell you, is a fast-paced place, nowhere more so than within the evolving landscape of business. “Most people can’t fathom how fast things really are evolving and changing,” states Karen Kocher, the Chief Learning Officer at Cigna. “Leadership that still operates as if the changes are primarily things they can drive and dictate, and leadership that operates as if we still have quite a while to accomplish objectives, is gone. This is the new reality that we’re all faced with.”

Those who want to succeed within this new reality, Kocher goes on to explain, would do well to hone a set of 10 specific leadership skills that industry sources cite as critically important in the coming years. Inspired by Robert Johansen’s book, “Leaders Make the Future,” and backed by the predictions of industry forecasters, Kocher says the following 10 skills will only be increasingly necessary in the coming years:

  1. Maker Instinct: The desire to create and connect drives tomorrow’s leaders. Instead of focusing on the bottom line, leaders will cultivate networks that are thriving, productive and good for business.
  2. Clarity: Leaders will have clear goals, but be flexible about how they get there as they navigate quagmires, guide companies through dilemmas and create solutions without false hope or oversimplification.
  3. Dilemma Flipping: The key here is flexibility. Dilemmas don’t have answers, so after picking a direction that later reveals itself to be problematic, leaders will be able to stop and switch tacks. “There’s no right or wrong,” Kocher explains. “You can’t simply say, ‘Well, I’m going to pick the right path,’ and march off in that direction knowing that you’ll be successful. It’s not that easy.”
  4. Immersive Learning Ability: Whether leaders are engaging in social media for the first time, or relying on their network to take a hands-on approach to some scenario, leaders will recognize that the best way to understand (and master) something is to live it. At least for a while.
  5. Bio-Empathy: Becoming aware of natural patterns around us, and considering a given business as its own ecosystem, will help leaders of the future learn from natural cycles and patterns to create a work environment that thrives.
  6. Constructive Depolarizing: Instead of seeing conflicts as right-and-wrong scenarios, leaders will use their Maker Instinct to turn polarization into a productive dialogue.
  7. Quiet Transparency: Successful leaders will be open and honest about what matters to them, minus the self-promotion of previous generations.
  8. Rapid Prototyping: Leaders won’t expect to get it right the first time around. The goal is speed when it comes to innovations with the understanding that failures eventually lead to success.
  9. Smart Mob Organizing: “You can call it what you want to – a work swarm, a smart mob, a crowdsource – but everybody’s predicting the same thing. The way to get things done is not with a fixed, finite number of people who work within your walls or within your company,” Kocher says. “It is throwing the doors open and engaging and involving people all over the place to help you pursue opportunities and solve challenges.”
  10. Commons Creating: Leaders will welcome the cultivation of “commons,” or “shared assets,” that benefit other players and, Kocher says, “allow competition at a higher level.

CTU Presents Cigna Executive, Karen KocherWhether these skills seem foreign, appealing or scary, the issue boils down, Kocher observes, to whether or not you believe the business world is in fact headed in this direction. “If you do,” she continues, “then what are you going to do to develop those skills?” And the answer to that question may just determine your success or failure.

Image 1 Credit: Bells Design/Ryan McGuire
Image 2 Credit: CTU