Australian Leadership Index Quarterly Report March 2020

Chart showing Australian Leadership Index results over time from September 2018 to March 2020

Business as usual in leaderdership perceptions

The March 2020 quarterly report comes at the end of the bushfire crisis of 2019/2020 and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was in its infancy at the time of data collection. (Note. The ALI report on leadership for the greater good during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic can be downloaded here).

This quarterly report describes the key findings from the March 2020 Australian Leadership Index. Information about the Australian Leadership Index (ALI) and full results are freely available via the ALI website and the interactive ALI data portal.

A note on the survey process

The results reported in this quarterly report reflect the views of 1,000 Australian respondents, who were surveyed in from March 1 to March 10, 2020.

Respondents are recruited via an online panel by Dynata. Recruitment is designed to ensure that the sample is nationally representative in terms of locality (i.e. States and Territories), gender and age.

Results are analysed at the overall national level, as well as at the sector (i.e., government, public, private and not-for-profit sectors) and institution-level. ALI results can be further segmented according to a range of demographic variables. More information about the survey process can be found here and the ALI data portal can be found here.

Key findings

1. Perceptions of the overall state of leadership for the greater good in Australia declined slightly, decreasing from an ALI score of -12 in December 2019 to -13 in March 2020.

2. Perceptions of government sector leadership for the greater good improved slightly, increasing from -23 in December 2019 to -21 in March 2020. Within this sector, the Federal Government made the biggest gains, improving from -32 in December 2019 to -25 in March 2020.

3. Perceptions of the public sector did not change from December 2019 to March 2020, holding steady at +3. Notably, public health institutions (+16) are single-handedly responsible for public esteem in this sector because public education (-2) and justice sector institutions (-6) are not perceived as showing leadership for the greater good.

4. Similarly, perceptions of the private sector grew did not change from December 2019 to March 2020, holding steady at -15.

5. Perceptions of not-for-profit sector leadership for the greater good worsened slightly, decreasing from -3 in December 2019 to -5 in March 2020. This result was largely the result of a steep decline in perceptions of charitable organisations’ leadership for the greater good, which declined from +37 in December 2019 to +21 in March 2020.

How is the ALI calculated?

Each ALI index score is calculated in a similar way to the Net Promoter Score, which is a well-known and easily understood index ranging from -100 to 100. Each ALI score is calculated as the proportion of people who believe that a given institution shows leadership for the greater good to a ‘fairly large extent’ or an ‘extremely large extent’ minus those who believe that the institution shows leadership for the greater good to ‘some extent’ or ‘not at all’.

For example, if 18 percent of people surveyed believe that the Federal Government shows leadership for the greater good to a ‘fairly large extent’ or an ‘extremely large extent’, but 42 percent of people believe that the federal government shows leadership for the greater good ‘to some extent’ or ‘not at all’, then the Federal Government is awarded an ALI score of -24.

chart showing how the australian leadership index score is calculated

Interpretation of ALI scores are straightforward: positive scores indicate that an institution is perceived, on balance, as showing leadership for the greater good and negative scores indicate that, on balance, an institution is not perceived as showing leadership for the greater good.

Overall perceptions of leadership for the greater good

Since September 2018, when ALI started tracking public perceptions of leadership for the greater good in Australia, the Index had never recorded a positive ALI score for overall impressions of leadership for the greater good. However, impressions of Australian leadership have improved somewhat since measurement began, when -21 was registered as the overall ALI score. Over the last four quarters, the overall ALI score has remained relatively stable, ranging from -11 to -13 (see Figure 1).

Chart showing perceptions of overall leadership for the greater good Sept 2018 to March 2020
Figure 1. Perceptions of overall leadership for the greater good (September 2018-March 2020)

Sector-level leadership

With an ALI score of +3, the public sector leads the way in terms of public perceptions of leadership for the greater good (see Figure 2). This score indicates that, on balance, the public sector is perceived as showing leadership for the greater good.

By contrast, the government sector (-21), the private sector (-15), and the not-for-profit sector (-5) are held in much lower public esteem. These scores indicate that, on balance, these sectors are not perceived as showing leadership for the greater good.

Chart showing ALI scores overall and across sectors (March 2020)
Figure 2. ALI scores overall and across sectors (March 2020)

Institutional-level leadership

With an ALI score of +21, charitable organisations lead the way in terms of public perceptions of leadership for the greater good (see Figure 3). Public health organisations (+16) are a close second.

Common to charities and public health organisations is that they are the only institution within their respective sectors that are perceived positively by the general public. For example, the esteem in which the public holds charities (+21) contrasts markedly with the strongly negative perceptions of trade unions (-14) and religious institutions (-21). Similarly, the public’s positive regard for public health organisations (+16) contrasts with the negative perceptions of public education institutions (-2) and justice sector institutions (-6).

The institutions of the private sector evince a similar pattern as those of the public and not-for-profit sectors. Specifically, the marginally positive regard for small and medium enterprises (+1) contrasts markedly with the strong negative perceptions of large national businesses (-20) and multinational corporations (-27). Notably, multinational corporations are perceived the most negatively of all institutions and sectors measured by the Australian Leadership Index.

Unlike the institutions of the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, the institutions of the government sector are all perceived negatively by the general public. Although the Federal Government (-25) fares the worst of all, State Governments (-23) don’t fare much better. Of the three government institutions, Local Governments (-16) are seen as the least bad. Overall, government institutions are not perceived by the public to show leadership for the greater good.

Chart showing ALI scores for all institutions (March 2020)
Figure 3. ALI scores for all institutions (March 2020)

Notably, despite the low public regard of the Federal Government, the March 2020 score of -25 represents significant improvement for an institution that suffered such an ignominious fall from (relative) grace as a result of its (in)action during the 2019/2020 bushfire crisis. As shown in Figure 4, the ALI score of the Federal Government plummeted from -15 in September 2019 to -32 in December 2019. In this context, the score of -25 is an improvement, but it remains to be seen whether this marks the beginning of a sustained recovery in public perceptions of the Federal Government.

Chart showing Australian Leadership Index scores for the federal government from September 2019 to March 2020
Figure 4. ALI scores for the Federal Government (September 2019-March 2020)

Explore this data for yourself via the ALI custom chart builder.

What sectors and institutions are measured by ALI?

The ALI comprises seventeen indices, providing high-level insights into the state of leadership for the greater good within and across sectors over time. Four sectors are measured; namely, the government, public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Each of these sectors is represented by three institutions.

The government sector comprises local and state governments, as well as the Federal Government. Included within this category are political parties (if they represent the incumbent government), and elected representatives.

The public sector is represented by public health institutions (e.g., public hospitals), public education institutions (e.g., public primary and secondary schools, TAFE, public universities) and justice institutions, which refers to those institutions that deliver legal, judicial and custodial services to the Australian community by managing courts, correctional services and justice services (e.g., the courts, the police).

The private sector is represented by small and medium enterprises (SMEs, e.g., local businesses with fewer than 200 employees, such as restaurants, services or independent stores), large national businesses (i.e., Australian businesses with over 200 employees that operate across Australia, such as Woolworths, Telstra, Harvey Norman), and multinational corporations (i.e., very large companies with thousands of employees that operate across multiple countries, including Australia (e.g., Google, Hilton, Airbus).

The not-for-profit sector is represented by charitable organisations (i.e., organisations with a mission dedicated to creating a social good), trade unions (i.e., organisations of workers in a trade, or group of trades, formed to protect and further their interests) and religious institutions (i.e., organisations whose purpose is to advance religion, which may also provide services to religious communities, such as places of worship).

A graphic depicting the sectors and institutions measured by the Australian Leadership Index

Concluding comments

Unhappily, since its inception in September 2018, the ALI has painted a dim picture of the state of leadership across Australia, with the exception of a small handful of institutions. In general, the March 2020 results represent a continuation of this trend.

The precipitous decline in public perceptions of Federal Government leadership in response to their response to their handling of the 2019/2020 bushfire crisis reveals how acutely sensitive the public is to apparent institutional disregard of the public interest. With another crisis now upon us, it remains to be seen whether institutional responses to the crisis meet community expectations of leadership for the greater good.

About the Australian Leadership Index

The Australian Leadership Index is a national leadership survey that provides a comprehensive picture of leadership for the greater good in Australia. Made possible by the generous support of the Graham Foundation, the Australian Leadership Index is nationally significant for a number of reasons.

It is the largest ever study of leadership for the greater good. Each quarter, the ALI surveys 1,000 people across Australia about their beliefs about leadership for the greater good by Australian organisations and institutions. The ALI also reveals how institutions in different sectors vary in terms of leadership for the greater good, as well as the drivers of these perceptions, revealing new insights into what institutional leaders can do to show leadership for the greater good. Finally, by making all ALI data freely available via the ALI data portal, the Australian Leadership Index provides the public, journalists and leaders with a powerful new tool to help bring forth the leadership Australia needs for the future Australians want.

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For enquires or media requests, please get in touch with Dr Sam Wilson on sgwilson@swin.edu.au or fill out the contact form with your details and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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