How do you prevent digital leaders from failing?

How do you prevent digital leaders from failing?

Why do digital executives change or fail? In many cases, digital bosses do not fail because they are unqualified, unmotivated or incompetent. They fail because they are doomed to failure!

In our decades-long digital practice, we have observed and understood why newly recruited digital executives are capitulating or being fired. First, a lot of time, effort and effort is invested to find the supposedly perfect candidate. The job is usually accompanied by a lot of optimism and euphoria from both sides. Extensive responsibilities are quickly transferred to the new leader in order to advance the digitization and transformation of the organizations.

Digital Chef: New Expectations for the Role

Recently, we have noticed that the way digital is being changed is changing. Fewer and fewer companies are appointing digital bosses and nominating internal talent for the job. Boards of many companies now believe that entrusting a single person with digital change is not the best approach, as it is a key strategic priority for the entire company.

At the same time, expectations of this role have changed for companies that already have a digital boss: first, digital executives should work across functional silos, as the role is now much more focused on the entire company. Secondly, legacy systems need to be changed and new technologies implemented. This means that the digital boss must have the appropriate technological background (although the digital leader still focuses on analog skills). The majority of people who originally held the digital leadership position were replaced because of such changing expectations.

But where companies are already appointing a digital boss, new priorities are needed. It is important to ensure that the digital boss still has the right perspective and skills to drive the digital transformation agenda. It is important to ensure that the digital boss has the necessary skills and continues to create added value in the right places.

Power-political stumbling blocks

But smashing faster than won – that's what the reality of the digital leader often looks like. Digital leaders are generally competent, motivated and experienced. They usually have a strong mix of knowledge and skills. Nevertheless, many digital executives fail in the first months of their new engagement – despite initial support for the organization. The stumbling blocks often lie in cultural, territorial or power-political challenges. It takes time to recognize, understand, and invent the existing set of values and practices of leadership.

Often, the enormous extent of the transformation challenge becomes clear and quickly, efforts to organize and consolidate digital projects are interpreted as interference by the responsible teams only after the nominated digital chief takes up his post. Businesses that initially signaled support are starting to withdraw. Efforts to centralize certain digital initiatives are politely but resolutely rejected.

That's why we support your digital leaders in the start-up phase. We come into play as mentors: Thanks to our many years of experience as digital leaders and former C-level executives, we accompany digital executives in knowledge transfer and professional development. The aim is to derive the greatest benefit from marketing strategies, digital technologies or business models.

Mentoring in digital change is not coaching. It implies that we have the accompany digital managers through our specialist knowledge,with insider and practical tips and support them in navigating along the digital transformation projects. Thanks to our broad practical and digital leadership experience, we are able to do this. In this development-oriented relationship, we pass on our skills and experience in digital transformation to the digital boss – the main focus is on sharing experience (even what doesn't work) and digital expertise so that the new digital chief can be more successful. The risk of your newly recruited performer failing in the difficult initial phase decreases.

Mentoring at Search & Co,

How does mentoring in the digital transformation work for us? The mentee(e.B.g. head of digital) can claim weekly mentoring sessions for 3.6 or 12 months. The mentoring is provided by our 'Digital Veterans' and Managing Director Markus Dobbelfeld or Frederik Thomas and takes place at the Mentees workplace or via video conference as required. Depending on the development, different priorities are set.


Invest in the leadership development of your digital leaders through mentoring. Identify the barriers and pitfalls and prevent your digital bosses from failing. Provide your newly recruited forces with a digital veteran as a mentor so that the new leader can master the cultural and power-political challenges in the start-up phase(especially since he already has plenty of challenges with the strategic and technological issues). We are happy to assist you with advice and deeds.