with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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In this episode, our guest is Shelly Park, CEO of Australian Red Cross Lifeblood on the loneliness of leadership, gifting humanity and transforming an organisation.

We talk all about:

  • How being the leader of an organisation can be a lonely place but how she has created peer networks;
  • Leading with purpose in an organisation where giving blood is the ultimate gift of humanity;
  • Why patience in your career progression is the quickest way to the top;
  • Transforming her organisation into the modern world, navigating through COVID and accountability to taxpayers.

Connecting with Shelly Park

You can connect with Shelly via LinkedIn. And if you’d like to donate blood, you can find all the info you need on the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood website, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram or on any of the above channels using the hashtag #lifebloodau

Books and resources


“I take that into how I create an executive as well. I take people who are stronger than me, around me. So I know what my own skill sets are and I know what my weaknesses or where I'm not as strong and I make sure that my team actually balance that.”


On the loneliness of leadership

  • I was talking to my CIO recently about what career aspirations she has and as part of that conversation, she said to me, the CEO role is a really lonely place. And I stopped and thought, I don't want people to think that I'm lonely. But the reality is that it is a lonely place because you do have to just keep that little bit of separation. But it's not that you're cold and it's not that you're disengaged, but you have to be able to make the right decisions for what the organisation or the business needs to actually deliver on your strategic outcomes and your KPIs and your financials.
  • Chief Executives have to reach out and create a different kind of peer group. So, like everyone else I'm in learning sets, and international connections and I'm very lucky through The World of Blood, the international network that we have of Chief Executives, both within the Asia-Pacific region and within Europe and the US. 
  • You have to build those networks because you need to actually keep challenging yourself, to keep learning from others. I learn from my executive and from our senior leaders all the time. I just think life is ever-evolving learning really. But you do have to be comfortable just being in that different spot.

On leading with purpose and the gift of humanity

  • I say this, and I don't say it lightly, I'm probably the luckiest Chief Executive in Australia. I lead an organisation that is part of a humanitarian arm, and humanitarianism is really important to me. I lead people who, through the generosity of people, donate part of themselves for somebody they will never meet. We do something with it to either make it into plasma or platelets, or fresh product, or whatever we do with it. Then we deliver it safely back to a patient at the other end.
  • How lucky am I? And the purpose of what we do, the difference that it makes talking with the recipients of our product and just hearing the impact of life.
  • And to be able to articulate those stories. We've been running development programmes for all of our senior leaders and one of the things that we have worked on with our senior leaders is the art of story-telling. Because it is a really strong leadership piece.

On transforming an organisation

  • Well, I think that we can't be sitting here at the beginning of 2021 without looking back at 2020 as a year that's going to be long remembered. So the challenges but also the opportunities that have been presented through COVID.
  • We run a whole network, we've got 96 fixed and donor sites. We have a really large manufacturing facility, state-of-the-art systems keeping ourselves ahead of that. Getting automation in, so again we just have all of these different challenges each and every day that together our team responds to, and does that really well. And we keep moving forward with technology to keep being leading and best practice. We benchmark ourselves worldwide and we are up in the top quarter for most things that we do. And that's what we continue to aspire to do.
  • It's taxpayer money that delivers the services that we deliver and we have a real accountability to do that well.

Final message of wisdom and hope for future leaders 

  • Keep your purpose and stay true to your principles and your values and never, ever forget that cash is king. Look after your financials.

Stay epic,