Leading Through Adversity: Insights from Mark Stone, CEO of Parks Victoria

Current roles:
Chair, SCT Logistics
Chair, Goulburn Valley Water
Chair, Davidson Client Advisory Board
Chair , Western Intermodal Freight Terminal (WIFT ) Alliance
Chair, Youth Activating Youth
Advisory Board Member, Delaware North (Australia)
Member, Independent Pandemic Management Advisory Committee ( former )
Director, Mark Stone Advisory

Former Roles include:
Tourism Australia, Board Member
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Board Member
Premier’s Jobs and Investment Panel Member
Workplace Assured Pty Ltd, Director
Victorian Aboriginal Economic Board, Co-Chair
WorkCover Advisory Council, Member
CCI Lawyers, Director
Melburnian of the Year, Judge
Victorian Major Events Company, Board Member
Melbourne Convention and Visitors Bureau, Board Member
Healthy Parks Healthy People Global, Board Member
Director of National Parks
Australia Day Ambassador ( Life )

As the host of the The Courage to Lead Interview Series, I recently had the privilege of sitting down with Mark Stone, a leader whose resilience and dedication have left an indelible mark on his community and beyond. Mark, the former CEO of Parks Victoria, is not only recognised for his leadership but also for his significant role during the harrowing bushfire period in Victoria in 2009. In this blog post, I’ll share the profound insights and stories Mark imparted during our conversation, which I believe hold invaluable lessons for leaders and aspiring leaders alike.

Navigating Crisis with Compassion and Collaboration

The 2009 bushfires in Victoria were a time of immense tragedy, and leading an organisation through such a crisis was no small feat. Mark recounted the challenges his team faced, from the heartbreaking loss of lives to the widespread impact on the community. He stressed the importance of collaboration with emergency services, staff, the community, and the government in the recovery process. It was a time that called for leaders to help people heal emotionally, physically, and environmentally.

Mark spoke of the resilience and dedication of his staff, who supported each other through debriefings after gruelling shifts. He also highlighted the significance of acknowledging their hard work and the sacrifices made by their families through a heartfelt video tribute.

The Roots of Resilience: A Personal Journey

Delving into his personal background, Mark shared anecdotes from his early life in a small town in the Goulburn Valley. His strong work ethic was evident from a young age, as he humorously recalled his days as a champion tomato picker at 14. These experiences, along with the influence of his family, shaped the values that would guide his leadership style.

Lessons in Leadership from the Football Field

Mark’s journey in leadership was not confined to the boardroom; it extended to the football field. He drew parallels between his experiences as a player and coach and the world of business. Football taught him the importance of empowering individuals and fostering an inclusive environment. He shared a touching story of a young player who, despite not being able to kick a football well, found a place in the team as a goal umpire, contributing in his unique way.

Career Progression and Embracing Change

Mark’s career trajectory is a testament to his adaptability and willingness to embrace new challenges. From climbing the ranks in the football industry to leading change in business organisations, he never shied away from proving his capabilities. He discussed the consolidation of regional manager roles and the resistance he faced, offering insights into leading through change.

Advocating for “Healthy Parks, Healthy People”

As the director of national parks, Mark championed the “healthy parks, healthy people” concept, which resonated not only in Victoria but also on an international scale. His efforts were recognised by the US park service and even caught the attention of Michelle Obama. This initiative underscored the importance of community well-being and the role of parks in public health.

Teamwork and the Power of Collaboration

Throughout our conversation, Mark emphasised the value of teamwork and the collective success achieved when everyone works towards a common goal. He drew on sports analogies to illustrate the importance of each team member’s contribution and the need for a team-oriented approach.

Continuing the Leadership Journey

Mark’s decision to transition to a new role with the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry marked another chapter in his leadership journey. It presented fresh challenges and opportunities for growth, reinforcing the themes of adaptability and continuous learning that permeated our discussion.

A Life of Service and the Impact of Mentorship

Mark’s work with young people in the football industry highlighted the significance of mentorship. He helped them overcome challenges and find meaningful roles, focusing not just on their physical abilities but also on their communication skills and personal development.

Recognition and Reflection

It was an honour to acknowledge Mark’s impactful work and his Order of Australia recognition during our interview. When asked for advice for those aspiring to make a positive impact, Mark underscored the importance of listening, learning, and working with a diverse range of people. He encouraged ambition and the willingness to adapt tactics when necessary.

The Takeaway

Mark’s commercial and community-oriented examples throughout the interview were a testament to his wisdom. His commitment to helping others in various capacities is truly inspiring. As we concluded our conversation, Mark expressed his hope that the stories shared would inspire the younger generation to take away valuable ideas and make them their own.

I am grateful for the opportunity to provide a platform for individuals like Mark to share their journeys. The insights from our conversation are a powerful reminder of the impact effective leadership, communication, and mentorship can have on personal and professional growth. As we navigate our own paths, let’s take these lessons to heart and strive to lead with the same resilience, compassion, and dedication that Mark Stone has exemplified throughout his remarkable career.