What new data on leadership trends reveals about Australians

A new Australian Leadership Index report has revealed what we thought about leaders and leadership in 2021.

The Australian Leadership Index is the largest ever ongoing research study of public perceptions and community expectations of institutional leadership for the greater good in Australia. It was created to measure and track this data with a view to inspire and sustain responsible leadership in Australian institutions.

The data highlights trends from the second year of the pandemic.

The rise and fall of our leaders

The Australian Leadership Index saw a stunning reversal of historic trends in 2020, during the first year of the pandemic, with an improvement in perceptions of leadership. We now know this didn’t last. Leadership perceptions fell throughout 2021.

The federal government recorded the biggest year-on-year fall in perceived leadership for good in 2021 at 11 percentage points on their ALI score.

Most people now regard Australia’s institutions as serving self and vested interests.

At a sector level, people generally only regard the public sector as showing leadership for the public good. Charities lead the way, followed by public health institutions. However religious institutions and trade unions have fallen further behind.

Large national businesses and public education institutions defy the downward trend of 2021 and show an increase in perceived leadership for the greater good.

Australian Leadership Index year-on-year (2020 to 2021) scores by sector highlight the institutions Australians believe to be our most trusted leaders. View the report for more detail.

What we expect vs what our leaders do

The data shows that there are still large gaps between what we expect of leadership performance and how institutions actually lead, but the largest gaps are found among indicators of integrity. Performance on integrity metrics – including ethics and morality, transparency, accountability, and care for and responsiveness to the interests of society – declined from 2020 to 2021.

“To improve leadership for the greater good, leaders must start with public integrity,” says co-founder of the Australian Leadership Index, Associate Professor Samuel Wilson.

“Earning and sustaining the public’s trust requires demonstrable public integrity by political, institutional and business leaders, supported by a commitment to the public interest, morality, transparency and accountability.”

A state-by-state breakdown

NSW reported a significant improvement in overall perceptions of leadership of 10 percentage points between 2020 and 2021, whereas Victoria reported a decline of 9 percentage points.

The biggest falls in overall leadership perceptions were found in NT, Victoria and WA, although Western Australians maintained a positive view of the general state of leadership for the greater good in Australia.

The Australian Leadership Index compares states, tracking the rises and falls in trust in leadership for the greater good. View the report for more detail.

What we wanted from our leaders has changed again

Our perceptions of good leadership changed between 2020 and 2021.

Understandably, 2020 brought with it a focus on security, protection and responsiveness to the needs of society (e.g. health care). In 2021, we shifted to a concern for public integrity, processes and the principles that guide the actions of authorities and institutions.

/University Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.