Bozoma Saint John Envisions 'A Better Normal' On 'Next Question'

On this episode of Next Question, Katie Couric talks with Chief Marketing Officer of Endeavor, Bozoma Saint John. Boz has worked with huge brands like Pepsi and Apple – she was the first Black woman to present at an Apple conference in 2016, where she got an entire audience of tech nerds to dance in the aisles to the Sugarhill Gang. She and Katie discuss how the pandemic has caused people and brands to reevaluate their marketing strategies and narratives, and how we can move towards not just a new normal, but a better normal, through more authenticity from our leaders, from brands, and from ourselves. With politicians and with business leaders, there used to be a veneer over them, as if everything they say is carefully scripted and staged. But with the pandemic upending every part of our lives, people are looking to business and government leaders for comfort and genuine emotion now. “People want to see the humans,” Boz says. “They don’t care about perfection.”

Boz conducts her own career this way, which she calls “leading with difference.” “I am wholly myself and not trying to put airs on for anyone, and still trying to manage in an environment that was not built for me,” she says. She describes it as “doing it your own way” instead of the textbook way, but also refers to being authentically herself: “This is something I wish every leader would do.” Instead of putting on a persona based on a stereotype of what a business leader or politician should look and sound like, she thinks we should all lean into our multi-dimensionality. Just because you’re very serious about your business doesn’t mean you can’t be silly and funny at times. We’re all full people with many different sides to us, and “if we lead with the truest form of ourselves….people will actually allow us to be us,” Boz says. “We need to be braver about showing the parts of ourselves that aren’t perfect.” In a pandemic, that means being willing to express some vulnerability; she points to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as an example, when he expressed fear about his brother coming down with Covid-19. “In that moment, he was a big brother,” not just a governor – and his communication was effective and relatable. “I thought it was wonderfully human.” 

As Katie, Boz, and all of us are looking ahead and wondering what the future will look like, it’s important to realize that we can’t go back to the way things were. Boz compares it to the stages of grief; we moved through denial, through anger and bargaining, and we’re just now getting to the part where we can “move into a new way of being, a new way of living, that will be much healthier for us. But that takes awareness and it takes acceptance of the loss of the way things were,” she says. “The realization that nothing will be what it was.” With this in mind, Katie and Boz are collaborating on a special ten-part series where they’ll speak with business leaders in every industry to talk about how they’re imagining their new normal, a better normal; “a vision for a really dope society.” Listen to the entire fascinating interview with Bozoma on this episode of Next Question.

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