Jon Stewart, the man who has sat at the helm of The Daily Show on Comedy Central for the past 17 years, hosted his last episode last week. His absence will leave a significant gap for many late night junkies (and morning online streamers) that tuned into his show for honest and sophisticated--as well as sardonic and sophomoric--coverage of domestic and international news, politics and cultural issues.
Stewart is the face of The Daily Show and, aside from his guests, essentially the only person associated with the program. A television show of this caliber, however, requires hundreds of people working countless hours to bring to fruition. This is only possible if the individual receiving all the credit is a great and inspirational leader as well.
So, as we celebrate the ending of his successful run on the show, let us reflect on the enduring leadership traits that have made Stewart so wildly successful for so long.
Work harder than everyone else.
Although The Daily Show airs only four days a week for 30 minutes an episode (20 minutes if you exclude commercials), it requires continuous work to produce, write and rewrite segments, all while being flexible enough to make up-to-the-minute changes that reflect the most current news. Stewart is not one to delegate the bulk of responsibilities, however, and is well-known for working harder than anyone on his staff.
Productive leaders work just as hard as those they lead--and often harder.
Surround yourself with better people.
If you are a fan of the show, you know it is incredibly well produced. This is because Stewart only hires and works with the most talented writers and producers in the industry. As well, many famous celebrities have gotten their start as a correspondent on the show, thanks to Stewart bringing them aboard. This list includes Stephen Colbert (former host of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report and new host of CBS's Late Night), Steve Carell (NBC's The Office), John Oliver (HBO's Last Week Tonight With John Oliver), Ed Helms (NBC’s The Office and The Hangover), and Olivia Munn (HBO's The Newsroom).
Inspiring leaders are not afraid to hire talented people and provide support for them as they develop through their career--even if it means they leave for greener pastures someday.
Demonstrate humble intelligence and polite sincerity.
Stewart is bright, well read and incredibly witty--he is also humble and incredibly respectful of everyone he meets, as evidenced by the fact that he never takes a seat before his guests. And although comedy is the medium in which he works, he has a true talent for relating to his audience by balancing tough and even emotional situations without changing his character. His commentary on the events of 9/11 and his emotional departure announcement are great examples of this.
Effective leaders are those who relate with others by bringing everyone up to his or her level--often without them realizing it.
Learn to ask questions and listen.
Stewart often interviewed many high-profile and influential cultural leaders, political figures and artists, and always asked poignant and direct questions. He also often disagreed with his guests but was always respectful of their opinions and allowed them speak uninterrupted.
Great leaders resist the urge to inject their views into every conversation and instead spend more time listening and learning.
Find your daily “Moment of Zen.”
Episodes of TheDaily Show often ended with Stewart signing off with his familiar phrase, "Here it is, your moment of zen," followed by comical and often ridiculous video clip. The short segments were profound in their absurdity, most likely to help us keep life in perspective.
Enduring leaders understand how to not take life so seriously, and their ability to keep the events of life in perspective allow them to balance the challenges and stresses of always being at the front of the line.
For the past decade and a half, I have tuned into Steward for the latest news (or mockery thereof) and a humorous close to my day. He will be missed, but I am happy that his leadership lessons will endure until he embarks on his next endeavor.
What did you appreciate about Jon Stewart and The Daily Show? Please share your thoughts with others in the comments.