Truthiness And The Late Show Leadership Dilemma

Apr 21 2014, 10:10am CDT | by

By Allison Todd

The “Late Show,” like other late night talk shows, is a brand centered around and shaped by its host. With the new appointment of Stephen Colbert, how can the “Late Show” successfully transition to a new leader when many current viewers only know this brand as “Late Show with David Letterman”?

There are lessons from the business world. Apple and Microsoft, two companies with brands closely tied to its leaders, have seen both failed and successful leadership transitions.

When you think of Apple, immediately Steve Jobs pops in your mind. Do you remember how much Apple floundered the first time Jobs left the company?  The company hadn’t been fortified with a clear vision and buy-in around a new leader before Jobs left. Upon his departure the company quickly spiraled into near bankruptcy, only to be saved when Jobs swooped back in years later. The organization failed to thrive without the charismatic leader who was inextricably connected to its brand. Jobs had failed to embed his vision and leadership into the culture so it that could survive after he left.

In comparison, when Bill Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft he made it very clear that he believed in and supported his successor, Steve Ballmer. Gates clearly communicated a new vision for the company and stated that the new vision could only be possible with someone else at the helm of the organization. This dramatically boosted Ballmer’s initial support. The baton had been passed, and the transition went smoothly. (Though, during Ballmer’s reign, Microsoft’s performance is starkly contrasted with Apple’s success in innovation.)

To capitalize on this window of opportunity to bring in a much younger (“The Colbert Report” boasts an average audience age of 42.3, “Late Show with David Letterman” is sitting at 58.2) and very different audience, while not alienating the current audience, the show can learn from both Apple and Microsoft. Here are some tips for the “Late Show” team:

  • Together, create a clear vision and opportunity of what the successful transition will be. Since Letterman will not be leaving the show until later this year, there is time for CBS, Letterman, and Colbert to work together on this transition. They must all agree on what success will look like for the company, the show, each leader, employees, and viewers, then work together to make that vision a reality.
  • Gain buy-in from employees of CBS and viewers. Letterman has already been very public in stating that he gives Colbert his stamp of approval and is excited for the new host. This can go a long way in helping followers of Letterman accept the change. Internally, producers and other staff need to follow Letterman’s lead and look for creative ways to create true urgency that shows the rest of the staff that the transition is critical to the show’s future.
  • Empower broad-based action by all effected by the change. Colbert has always been great at empowering his viewers to volunteer and help him in any way necessary – from encouraging viewers to change a Wikipedia page about African elephants to getting viewers to donate over $1.02 million dollars to the Colbert Super PAC. If Colbert can help viewers of “Late Show” feel as empowered as his viewers of “The Colbert Report” have over the last decade, they’ll almost certainly become loyal viewers of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
  • Don’t let up in order to make the change stick. Even if ratings look high for a while and praise is flowing during the beginning of Colbert’s term as host, the show must continue looking for creative ways to build urgency, gain buy-in, and empower viewers. Ensuring that the new host is embedded in the culture and becomes a staple of late night television will take time and continued effort.

As a fan of “The Colbert Report,” but not a regular viewer of “Late Show with David Letterman,” I hope CBS allows Colbert free reign behind the desk. I’m sad to see “The Colbert Report” go, yet look forward to what the future may hold for “Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” CBS has an opportunity to gain one new viewer in me if they are successful with this crucial transition.

Allison Todd  works at Kotter International (www.kotterinternational.com ), helping leaders accelerate strategy implementation in their organizations. Follow Kotter International on Twitter @KotterIntl , on Facebook , or on LinkedIn . Sign up for the Kotter International Newsletter .

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Here’s why many people want their BlackBerrys back after switching to iOS and Android
Here’s why many people want their BlackBerrys back after switching to iOS and Android
Following the release of the original iPhone in 2007 and the subsequent launch of Android, many people with work-issued phones spent years asking for their employers to switch away from BlackBerry smartphones to more...
 
 
APPL & AMZN Now at High Risk Levels?
The sharply higher opening Tuesday in reaction to earnings from Netflix, Inc. (NFLX) and Chipolte Mexican Grill (CMG) stabilized the market’s short-term outlook. The S&P futures broke out of their recent trading...
 
 
Tim Cook Just Made The Case For A Low-Priced iPhone
Tim Cook Just Made The Case For A Low-Priced iPhone
During Apple’s earnings call yesterday, CEO Tim Cook was asked a seemingly harmless question about the impact of trade-in programs on iPhone sales. Cook’s wide-ranging response was that he felt trade-ins were good for...
 
 
Want to start using OS X Yosemite before it launches this fall? Here’s how you can
Want to start using OS X Yosemite before it launches this fall? Here’s how you can
Developers and people with access to developer accounts have already been able to try out the OS X Yosemite in beta form for more than a month, but soon Apple will make the beta version of its new OS available to a...
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

MH17 black boxes arrive in Britain for analysis (Lead, changing dateline)
London, July 23 (IANS) The black box recorders from the crashed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 have arrived in Britain for data downloading and analysis, the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Here’s why many people want their BlackBerrys back after switching to iOS and Android
Following the release of the original iPhone in 2007 and the subsequent launch of Android, many people with work-issued phones spent years asking for their employers to switch away from BlackBerry smartphones to more...
Read more on Apple Balla
 
UN warns of possible Israeli war crimes, Gaza toll 650 (Roundup)
Geneva/Jerusalem/Gaza, July 23 (IANS) UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay Wednesday warned that Israeli military attacks on Gaza could constitute a war crime, as the toll in Israel's ongoing offensive on...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Ukraine rebels withdraw from Donetsk outskirts
Moscow/Kiev, July 23 (IANS) Pro-Russian separatists Wednesday exited three towns on the outskirts of the eastern city of Donetsk and areas surrounding the airport, rebel militia chief Igor Strelkov said even as the...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
47 killed in Taiwan plane's botched landing
Taipei, July 23 (IANS) Forty-seven people on board a Taiwanese TransAsia Airways plane were killed in a failed emergency landing in the island county of Penghu Wednesday, Taiwan's transportation authority has confirmed...
Read more on Business Balla
 
APPL & AMZN Now at High Risk Levels?
The sharply higher opening Tuesday in reaction to earnings from Netflix, Inc. (NFLX) and Chipolte Mexican Grill (CMG) stabilized the market’s short-term outlook. The S&P futures broke out of their recent trading...
Read more on Apple Balla
 
Tim Cook Just Made The Case For A Low-Priced iPhone
During Apple’s earnings call yesterday, CEO Tim Cook was asked a seemingly harmless question about the impact of trade-in programs on iPhone sales. Cook’s wide-ranging response was that he felt trade-ins were good for...
Read more on Apple Balla
 
India at Commonwealth Games Thursday
Glasgow, July 23 (IANS) The following is the list of Indians participating on the first day of competition at the 2014 Commonwealth Games here Thursday. India's schedule: Badminton: India will take on Ghana and then...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Director of 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' to make new film
Peter Webber is planning a sequel to 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'. The director - who launched actress Scarlett Johansson into the spotlight with his 2003 debut - has now begun work on a new project. The similarly art...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
Dwayne Johnson wears testicle hair beard
Dwayne Johnson wore a beard made of testicle hair for 'Hercules'. The 42-year-old star - also known by his wrestling name ''The Rock'' - stars as the Greek hero in the upcoming film of the same name and he's confessed...
Read more on Movie Balla