Typical leadership errors in the field of digital transformation

Nowadays, many companies appear to be extremely chaotic or "lost in transformation". Business leaders are chasing current buzzwords and investing in new strategies and projects without really knowing what they should pay for. And all this just so that they can give shareholders and the public the impression of being "on track digitally". When under pressure, people usually revert to default-mode, which often equates to "action" and makes them more prone to making mistakes:

We are not automatically agile when:

  • we are constantly starting new strategies, projects and workshops, and
  • employees can decide everything themselves.


We do not automatically go through a digital transformation when:

  • we transfer old business models to digital platforms, or
  • buy the services of a digital agency on a whim.


We do not automatically achieve a strong corporate culture if:

  • our offices are equipped with euro-pallets, soccer tables and juice bars, and if
  • the CEO has his own Twitter account.


We are not automatically a hip and trendy executive if:

  • we exclusively hire the "young and wild" or have creative labs, or if
  • the bosses throw away their ties and wear sneakers with their suits.


An incredible amount of time and money are devoted to aesthetics – outside-in approaches – because this is how managers are socialized. By using resources in this way, managers are carrying out extensive transactions, but not transformation. And in most cases, they also generate a great deal of unnecessary chaos and high workloads for employees.

A “guiding star” with clear and emotional vision, as well as intensive leadership, is required to ensure that employees are happy to help shaping change instead of shaking their heads, waiting or even blocking change because they have not understood the reason behind it and their role in it. In a digital age, it is important to do this analogously, so that all initiatives really work in one direction, creating orientation and saving resources.

In my humble opinion, successful leaders should ask themselves the following questions and find good answers:

  • How can we, as analog beings, ensure that we do not starve to death mentally in the digital age?
  • How must companies be organized and managed in the future in order to master the increasing complexity?
  • What must we, our children and our employees learn and do, so that we cannot be replaced by computers?
  • What kind of company will we strive to be in the future, what will our contribution be and what business models do we need? e. what is our vision?
  • How can we encourage employees to develop an appetite for change and performance?
  • How can we prepare employees for new requirements, so that they grow with the organization and find new roles here?
  • Without “bloodshed”, how can we separate ourselves from employees who do not support change or are replaced by computers?

For a complete transformation, the requirements are clear self-perception and the will and courage to really look in the mirror, throw old things overboard and have a total rethink. Our mental operating systems need to be updated. Many managers are still running on MS-Dos, which is no way to control modern apps.

Jack Ma (CEO Alibaba), spoke in a panel at the WEF in Davos about what he thinks is essential to prepare our children (and from my point of view also our employees) for the digital future:

Values, conviction, independent thinking, teamwork and compassion.

But what if executives are convinced that all this is already happening in their company? And above all within themselves? What if employees and colleagues perceive things differently, and the external image differs greatly from the self-image? How can they teach something that they are unable to master themselves or that they do not even consider valuable?

In order to realize that their self-perception is “off-road”, executives need to be able to accept and to reflect on feedback, which is not exactly one of the favorite activities among top management! Managers need a greater awareness of their own behavioral patterns, values and beliefs that influence their perception. (As is the case with GPS - only the user can locate themselves correctly and know exactly where they want to go, i.e. can set and follow their course, their strategy). And this requires strong self-awareness of the effect of their actions. This is because decisions that are made today not only heavily impact companies and society, but also individuals. Steering with a calm and circumspect hand and thinking a few steps ahead is what is needed.

Thus, every transformation begins with “I”, manifests itself in a strong “WE” and can lead to a successful “IT”. And that is what we call a real transformation!