New Zealand Red Cross – re-shaping its leadership trajectory through executive search
Nov. 14, 2023
4 minutes

Even the most well-known organisations seek expertise with attracting the best talent.

In late 2021, Sarah Stuart-Black, QSO, Secretary-General of the New Zealand Red Cross, reached out to Kestria New Zealand: Ichor Leadership Search to assist with the establishment of the organisation’s executive leadership team. Following a review of the executive leadership structure and roles ahead of a significant transformative organisational change process planned for 2022, there was a need to appoint high-calibre executive leaders to lead the transformative change and deliver the organisational strategy, including being more sustainable and achieving greater community impact.

Sarah Stuart-Black
Secretary-General, Red Cross

“I specifically sought the expertise of Kestria New Zealand to support the recruitment for the newly reshaped leadership structure. I wanted to signal to potential candidates, the organisations we work with and the communities we serve, the significant leadership lift and strategic focus I was seeking. Leveraging Guy and Vishnu’s experience and networks was important in identifying the right calibre of potential candidates,” Sarah Stuart-Black, Secretary-General, Red Cross.

As part of this process, Kestria New Zealand assisted with the simultaneous appointment of four executive leadership roles:


ExecutiveDirector - Office of the Secretary-General - responsible for strategy, business planning, assurance and performance monitoring, risk management, international humanitarian law and policy and supporting the National Board and Secretary General, including governance arrangements and key external relationships.


General Manager - Engagement and Enterprise - responsible for communications, marketing, external brand management, profile management as well as philanthropy and revenue-generating activities. 


General Manager - People Experience and Support - responsible for the organisation's people capabilities, systems, policies and processes to support employees and members, including strategic HR, diversity and inclusion, health, safety and well-being and privacy.


General Manager - Emergency Management and International - responsible for domestic emergency management programmes (readiness, response and recovery) and an international programme with a focus on capability building and responding to large scale international emergencies. 

Kestria New Zealand was subsequently asked to assist with the appointment of a fifth role: 


General Manager - Migration - responsible for developing, delivering and overseeing programmes to support former refugees and vulnerable migrants.

The challenge: identifying and assessing top national talent within a short timeframe

A clear plan of action was agreed with the client which involved a national advertising campaign to increase coverage and build brand profile, while demonstrating to the public that the organisation was evolving and seeking experienced, forward-looking leaders. This was supported by a modicum of targeted search to ensure the right mix of candidates was being considered.

Following the advertising and search process, an initial longlist of recommendations was shared with the client. Kestria New Zealand then met with the applicants / search approaches across all four roles to create four separate shortlists. Each shortlist consisted of between three to four individuals, working off a base of approximately 40-70 applicants across all four roles.

Ultimately, experienced, internal candidates were appointed to two of the five roles, with the remainder consisting of highly qualified leaders with a range of experience from the public sector, defence force, not-for-profit and internationally.


Kestria New Zealand's key success factors for this role included:

Gaining a thorough understanding of the brief and the client’s requirements at the start of this process;

Establishing a pre-determined programme of milestone meetings to discuss their recommendations and next steps;

Supplementing formal channels of communication with regular phone calls, emails and texts to stay abreast of the client’s evolving requirements, while measuring progress against the parameters we had collectively put in place at the start of the process; and

Identifying and assessing the level of ‘fit’ offered by a range of individuals across all roles to ensure successful appointments.

About the client 

The New Zealand Red Cross is one of 191 National Societies that are part of the world's best-known humanitarian movement and brand. It is a membership-based, professionally organised, not-for-profit organisation, present in 191 countries. 

Recognized for its charitable activities, its neutrality, impartiality and the independence of its actions, the organisation’s mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity and improving community resilience.

The New Zealand National Society has been around since 1932 and currently has over 500 employees and around 9,000 members nationwide. The organisation and its activities in New Zealand are built around three pillars - Migration, Emergency Management and International Programmes, with International Humanitarian Law a foundation of Red Cross’ work and approach.

A unified approach across multiple sectors 

This project showcased Kestria New Zealand’s ability to use their broad networks to meet the client’s needs. Their capacity to communicate effectively and ensure a ‘no surprises’ approach with every client they work with, underscores their ability to keep pace with their client’s evolving needs and produce successful results.

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