Leadership for the greater good: A national conversation about leadership in Australia

2021 Annual Report Front Cover Image

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A national conversation about leadership in australia is now more important than ever

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    Lack of leadership for the greater good

    Growing community distrust of social institutions and the pervasive sense that institutions serve self interest ahead of the public interest has fostered growing interest in leadership for the greater good.

  • ALI Inspires leadership in Australia

    The Australian Leadership Index was created to tomeasure and track perceptions of leadership for the greater good, with a view to inspire and sustain responsible leadership in Australian institutions.

  • The largest study of leadership

    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.

  • Supported by The Graham Foundation

    The Australian Leadership Index is made possible by the generous support of The Graham Foundation, which has supported the ALI since its inception in 2018.

Leadership trending away from public interest

  • The rise and fall of leadership for the public good

    After a stunning reversal of historic trends during the first year of the pandemic, which saw an improvement in perceptions of leadership, leadership perceptions fell throughout 2021.

  • Who speaks for and protects the public interest?

    At the sector level, the results are clear: the community only regards the public sector as showing leadership for the public good. At the institutional level, charities lead the way, followed closely by public health institutions.

  • The biggest loser in 2021

    At the sector level, the government and not–for–profit sectors both recorded falls into negative territory in 2021, after strong gains in 2020. The federal government recorded the biggest year–on–year fall in perceived leadership for the good.

Leadership gaps still substantial

  • Large gaps still exist between performance and expectations

    Substantial gaps still exist between how the general public expects authorities and institutions to lead and how authorities and institutions are perceived to lead.

  • The largest gaps are found among indicators of integrity

    Public integrity comprises several core themes including ethics and morality, transparency, accountability, and care for and responsiveness to the interests of society. Performance on all these integrity metrics declined from 2020 to 2021.

  • Improving leadership for the good starts with public integrity

    Not only are ethics, transparency, accountability, and responsiveness to society the worst performers; they are also the biggest drivers of perceptions of leadership for the good. To improve leadership for the good, leaders must start with public integrity.

Overall, leadership perceptions in Australia in 2021 were negative

  • The public views Australia's social institutions as generally self-serving

    Despite an improvement in sentiment during the first year of the pandemic, most people now regard Australia’s social institutions as serving self and vested interests ahead of the public interest.

  • A tale of two cities

    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.

  • Most states went backwards

    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.

About the report

The Australian Leadership Index addresses three fundamental aspects of leadership for the greater good in Australia: public perceptions of its state in a variety of social institutions and sectors; public expectations about leadership for the greater good; and the factors that predict or ‘drive’ public perceptions of leadership for the greater good.

To understand public perceptions and expectations about leadership for the good, ALI surveys approximately 1,000 people across all Australian states and territories each quarter. This nationally representative report reflects the views of over 4,000 Australians surveyed throughout 2021.

In addition to this, where appropriate, this report draws on results from the 2018-2020 Australian Leadership Index surveys to provide wider context and meaning to the patterns and trends observed in perceptions of leadership for the greater good in Australia’s social institutions.

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