Jon Stewart, the wildly successful host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, has discovered and launched a surprising number of comedy stars, including Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Ed Helms, and Rob Corddry.
The Harvard Business Review looks at Stewart’s secret as a leader that allowed him to develop such talent.
“Superbosses are exceptionally adept at developing talent because they share particular character traits and adopt a set of common practices that, taken together, are both rare and extraordinarily effective. They are unusually intense and passionate—eating, sleeping, and breathing their businesses and inspiring others to do the same. They create impossibly high work standards that push protégés to their limits. They are geniuses at motivation, inspiring people to do more than they ever thought possible. Remarkably, they can be intimately involved in the detailed work their people are doing, while at the same time lavish responsibility on inexperienced protégés, taking risks with them that seem foolish to outsiders. They encourage the creation of strong, emotional bonds and loyalties between protégés as well as between protégés and themselves.”
During his tenure, Stewart embraced most of these tendencies.
“The work on The Daily Show was fast-paced, with deadlines to be met every day for the night’s show. Stewart expected new performers to step up to the challenge from their very first day… Yet such intense pressure didn’t cause performers to turn on one another. Instead, they pulled together as a group, helping and teaching one another.”
Key takeaway: “Many of us aim for financial or professional success. Stewart achieved both by helping others to build their careers and realize their full potential. He unleashed a generation of humorists to entertain, amuse, and infuriate us. What we’ll ultimately miss most about Stewart thus may not ultimately be his take on current events. It’s his take on talent. Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, his legacy as comedy’s reigning godfather is worth celebrating.”