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Chris Mills: Taking leadership to new heights

Dominica Czaczka | October 2020

Ask questions, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and put your hand up for opportunities.

These are the three golden rules Chris Mills has applied to his own career and has led to his current appointment as Chief Executive Officer of Queensland Airports Limited.

With stints across finance, construction, tourism and leisure and now aviation, Mills is emphatic a willingness to learn is a key component to climbing the corporate ladder.

“Treat everything as a chance to learn.

“When opportunities come up, put your hand up. It may not be the thing you were looking for but it may be a stepping stone to something else,” he explains.

While his natural curiosity has buoyed him from industry to industry, even Mills didn’t foresee his career path would lead to an executive role within the aviation sector.

“I never thought I would be a CEO of an airport business looking after a number of airports in Queensland,” admits Mills.

“Apart from the usual childhood dreams of being a cowboy or an astronaut, I don’t think I had a particular view of what I wanted to do.

“I think what I found is that desire to learn is what has seen me through going into different industries. Learning how things works keeps me interested and challenged.

“I think it’s about finding the opportunities. While there wasn’t a definite plan like ‘in 30 years I have to be a CEO of an airport business’ there were points in there I could say ‘right I want to be in tourism and leisure, so I’m going to stop doing this and start doing this’,” he ponders.

Mills says regardless of the industry, a resolute determination to make a difference and create a lasting legacy has always been an important motivator across his various leadership roles.

“I need to be able to see tangible outputs; we did that, we made that, we helped that person, we influenced that, we made that person feel better about their day,” he said.

A resolve to contribute to the city’s major infrastructure network coupled with confidence in the Gold Coast’s economy long term has seen QAL under Mills’ leadership commit to a vision of transforming

Gold Coast Airport into one of the leading regional airports in Australia – despite the decimating impact Covid-19 has had on the aviation industry.

“Covid-19 stopped our business in its tracks, that’s meant having to revisit some of those plans,” said Mills.

“We need to take a very long term view on these things and say ok some things might not be the way they were for next six, 12 or 18 months, but long term the investment in that precinct is going to benefit the Gold Coast.

“That’s why we’re investing in the future. We’ve got a hotel which will open this year (the first hotel at Gold Coast airport) and our terminal expansion is already well underway.

“That’s all about confidence in the future.”

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