Stephen Colbert Teaches Daft Punk and MTV’s Van Toffler Leadership Lesson

Stephen Colbert is Not Impressed with Van Toffler or Daft Punk

On the latest episode of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert revealed the highly anticipated guest, Daft Punk, would not appear. The reason for the last minute cancellation seemed to be MTV’s President, Van Toffler, pulling rank on Colbert’s show. MTV and Comedy Central are both owned by Viacom. Frustrated by the last minute change of events and the lack of control Colbert taught Viacom and MTV executives a lesson in modern leadership.

Colbert spent the rest of the episode referring back to the issue. At one point, he even displayed an email from Toffler, dated, August 5th, that reads:

From: “Toffler, Van”
Date: August 5, 2013
Subject: Re: Daft Punk
Not sure I can help you with that one… Checked with my peeps and… they’re feelin funky on this one.

Colbert poked fun at the lack of clarity and transparency from MTV’s executive. He explained that MTV’s Toffler seemed to think the appearance of Daft Punk on his Colbert’s show may negatively impact viewership on the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA). However, MTV’s VMA, where Daft Punk is also scheduled to appear, are almost a full month later.

With a live show to record and no star guest, Colbert filled in with other stars, including Ashton Kutcher, who said Colbert got “F*cked (on the deal),” Robin Thicke, who sang “Blurred Lines” and a crazy dance segment where Colbert pranced across several other TV Shows in filming. Throughout the episode there were regular references to the autocratic decision by Toffler.  

The lesson for leaders today is that people demand transparency and candor. If MTV and Toffler anticipate a drop in ratings because Daft Punk appeared a month earlier on another show from their sister network, there should have been a more clear message and earlier warning. Such short notice seems unreasonable.

Social media is a powerful tool that is changing our leadership culture. People demand more transparency and candor from our leaders. If you’re out for self-interests, your stakeholders know. Stephen Colbert understands this cultural shift and Van Toffler, in this incident, seems to have missed the point.

Question: What do you think? Was Colbert right to share all this information publicly?


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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