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

Apple Confirms Apple Watch Will Track Users
Apple Confirms Apple Watch Will Track Users
Advertisers are excited about the new capabilities
 
 
Why Is China So Important To Apple?
Why Is China So Important To Apple?
The most populated country is Apple’s latest target
 
 
Apple Sets New Records With iPhone 6 Release
Apple Sets New Records With iPhone 6 Release
The company sold 10 million new iPhones at launch
 
 
iPhone 6 Plus Declared to Include the Best Ever Smartphone LCD
iPhone 6 Plus Declared to Include the Best Ever Smartphone LCD
While the display of the iPhone 6 Plus showed an outstanding performance, the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 screen lagged a bit behind due to the low resolution and pixel density.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Separatist teacher jailed for life in China
Beijing, Sep 23 (IANS) Ilham Tohti, a teacher belonging to the Uygur ethnic group, was Tuesdaysentenced to life in prison for separatism in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region,...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
US informed Syria in advance of strikes against IS
Damascus, Sep 23 (IANS) Washington had informed Syria of airstrikes against positions of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria before these strikes started, the Syrian foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday. The...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Social exclusion prompts employees to cheat
New York, Sep 23 (IANS) Managers must see that none of the employees feels excluded as even perception of social exclusion may lead to employees to engage in seedy activities, which may ultimately affect the...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Healthy lifestyle key to cut heart attack risk in men
London, Sep 23 (IANS) If the very thought of heart attacks makes you squirm, making a few amends in your lifestyle can help you breathe easy. According to a new study, healthy lifestyle choices may help men cut down...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
How to help shy kids learn
New York, Sep 23 (IANS) If your kids are shy - anxious, fearful, socially withdrawn, and isolated - it is more important to engage them in learning activities than trying to change them, says a study. A programme...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Miley Cyrus out with her meme
Los Angeles, Sep 23 (IANS) Singer Miley Cyrus has photoshopped her childhood face from a picture and shared it online. Along with the childhood photograph, the 21-year-old has modified images of her raunchiest concert...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Muguruza stuns Halep at Wuhan Open
Wuhan (China), Sep 23 (IANS) Aggressive Spanish tennis player Garbine Muguruza pulled off the biggest upset of the Wuhan Open Tuesday, rallying from a set down to stun second seed Simona Halep. The two WTA rising...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Three people killed in Pakistan blast
Islamabad, Sep 23 (IANS) At least three people, including a woman and a security official, were killed and six injured Tuesday in a blast targeting a convoy of the Frontier Corps (FC) in Pakistan, media reported. The...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Nepali man dies during indefinite fast for justice
Kathmandu, Sep 23 (IANS) Nanda Prasad Adhikari has died while staging a "fast-unto-death" the past 11 months for pressing for his demand that his son's killer during the country's insurgency era be brought to justice...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Sun Yang eyes first men's gold for Chinese swimming
Incheon, Sep 23 (IANS) Chinese swimmer Sun Yang showed up as promised in 400m freestyle heats Tuesday morning and managed to enter the final with the top result of three minutes and 51.17 seconds at Munhak Park Tae-...
Read more on Sport Balla