What Jon Stewart Taught Me About Being a Leader

jon stewart ponderingThis week marks the end of an era. With over fifteen years of The Daily Show circulating in my brain, I am no longer a passive observer of news. Because of Jon Stewart, I lost the ability to accept what politicians and the news say based on pure faith. I now look for other sides of the story, consider the larger (and often unspoken) impacts, and determine for myself what precedence each event should receive in relation to other events.

Jon’s influence stems beyond his show; since he started hosting, Jon has bestowed valuable lessons that can benefit any leader. It’s impossible to list them all, but the following are five of my favorites. If you have a personal favorite that isn’t listed, I encourage you to add it to the comment section below.

Motivation

I’ve worked a lot of s–t jobs, and I’ve struggled a lot. I think you never lose, that person is always with you, to let you know that you’re not so great. I’ve been fired enough to know that that person is still in me, and that I have to work harder and get better.

What is your underlying drive to persevere? What is that inner voice telling you? Hopefully, it balances the bleak “you suck” with the constructive “you can do it” and maybe a tinge of the competitive “you better run faster.”

Tempered Change

People always say, ‘Well, are you an activist?’ and I say, ‘No, I’m not really an activist,’ but if there’s some measure of activism in me, it’s the quiet activism of living pleasantly.

Jon’s quiet activism exercises a modest, almost indiscernible form of leadership. These grassroots efforts are less visible, but bring about long-standing changes through incremental, gentle nudges.

Expectations

You can use your idealism to further your aims, if you realize that nothing is Nirvana, nothing is perfect.

It’s easy to get down on yourself when the result is not exactly what you were hoping for. Keep reaching for your utopian goal while remembering that any progress, in itself, is still progress.

Effort

You just have to keep trying to do good work, and hope that it leads to more good work. I want to look back on my career and be proud of the work, and be proud that I tried everything. Yes, I want to look back and know that I was terrible at a variety of things.

Treat every opportunity like its “the” opportunity. Who knows what you may learn, the affects of these experiences, or who else is watching.

Multifaceted

I reject the idea there are just two sides. I think that with the amount of ideas and thoughts there are, it’s not even going to be consistent with the same person. People can hold liberal and conservative dogma points at the same time. They’re not living their lives via platforms. They’re living their lives. The whole thing is an awfully tired construct.

Don’t limit yourself or others to an overly simplistic, two-dimensional persona. Societal norms may dictate an “ us versus them” view where you’re expected to fall on one side of the see-saw, but the reality is that we are more complex and have the ability to think for ourselves. Encourage this more personal, less cookie cutter contemplation.

Jon Stewart’s retirement leaves a void in our political commentary. Jon might try to deflect this notion, but his humor and insight have provided necessary observations at a time when we are inundated with more and more insincere, opportunistic rhetoric. Let’s be grateful for Jon’s contributions and hope that his next endeavor continues on this path.

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