Strategic Leadership in Large Scale Projects: A Pathfinding Approach to Success - in conversation with Susan Clamage

Talking Trends
3 min readJan 9, 2024

The strategic leadership journey within large-scale complex projects involves orchestrating diverse teams through a pathfinding approach. Success emerges from meticulous upfront planning, constant communication, and aligning talents with project dynamics. This exploration navigates the nuances of team building, servant leadership, and stakeholder engagement. From concept to execution, the focus is on transforming ideas into sustainable progress, presenting a high-level overview of leadership methodologies that elevate projects to new dimensions.

We get a deeper insight into these concepts in our interview with Susan Clamage, a Studio Director, and Practice Leader.

In the realm of handling expansive projects with diverse teams, where success hinges on both the process and the people involved, how do you, as a collaborative and creative pathfinder, navigate from an initial idea or issue to a solution that not only benefits all stakeholders but also fosters cohesive teamwork? Additionally, with a servant leader approach, how do you strategically build and align teams for each unique project, and extend that servant leadership to clients, acting as a pathfinder to exceed their goals while creating sustainable progress for all parties involved?

“Achieving success in complex projects with diverse teams requires a meticulous approach, and it all begins with starting smart. This involves setting a clear vision, defining the mission, and establishing achievable goals. Fundamental to this process is constant communication among all parties, identifying key decision-makers, and garnering buy-in and consensus from crucial stakeholders. In the realm of complex projects, the upfront planning, documentation, and engagement with key stakeholders become even more paramount.

“The first step in my process is being an adept listener. I visualize a strategic approach and formulate a series of questions that act as a guiding path. These questions not only address the client’s concerns but also shape the overall strategy and goals. This method serves as an interactive way to extract information while simultaneously fostering a culture of curiosity and skill development in asking the right questions, both for myself and the team.

“Considering the talents, experiences, and skill sets of key technical, design, and management leads is essential. Aligning them with the client’s culture and project dynamics, I then integrate junior talent that complements each lead, creating a symbiotic relationship of mentorship, accountability, and empowerment. Understanding the perspectives and issues important to each team member is crucial. By making their concerns my own and empathizing with their challenges, I build trust and a sense of unity within the team. It’s about empowering them to shine without expecting anything in return and proactively addressing their needs, even those they may not have considered.

“Extending this servant leadership to clients involves becoming a trusted advisor. Managing expectations, timely communication, and a proactive approach to problem-solving are paramount. Following through on promises and commitments, and always presenting solutions rather than just highlighting problems, strengthens the client relationship. The goal is to not only meet but exceed client goals and become a valuable partner in their success. Ultimately, being a pathfinder for both the process and the people involved ensures sustainable progress and stakeholder engagement throughout the project lifecycle.”

Thank you for sharing, Susan.

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