Measuring leadership in Australia
Barely a day goes by when a story about irresponsible political or business leadership doesn’t feature in the media or social media. This month alone has witnessed multiple stories about corporate accountability, ethics, and transparency, as well as countless stories about federal, state and local government leadership in relation to COVID-19, aged care and energy policy. It is not always clear whether this leadership serves the public interest.
However, despite the media debate that swirls around these and related topics, it is not always clear what the general public thinks. Sometimes public perceptions are aligned, yet at other times they are not. This is well illustrated by the public support for the Victorian government’s response to COVID-19, which is at odds with what the federal government and business groups think. What the community thinks matters, especially in the context of such phenomena as social licence to operate, which is as relevant to charities and religious institutions as it is to businesses and governments.
Leadership data, at your fingertips
The Australian Leadership Index offers the general public, as well as specialist audiences, such as journalists, a means to gauge what the Australian community thinks about leadership, accountability, transparency, ethics, and much else besides, in the public, private and plural sectors. It does through its unique open access data portal, which allows users to glean powerful insights into the perceived state of leadership for the greater good in Australia, as well as insights into public perceptions and expectations of the key drivers of leadership for the greater good in the institutions of the government, public, private and not-for-profit sectors. This information not only provides in-depth results about the perceived state of leadership in Australia but, importantly, clear, actionable insights into what can be done to improve the practice of leadership for the greater good in Australian institutions. With data available since September 2018, the Australian Leadership Index is a veritable treasure trove.
An overview of the ALI data portal
The ALI data portal comprises five tools that provide increasingly granular insights into the perceived state of leadership for the greater good in Australian organisations and institutions. The first of these is the executive summary, which present high level data analysis of the state of leadership for the greater good in the government, public, private and not-for-profit sectors. The second is the index breakdown, which shows how the four sectors are performing on the specific components that underpin their ALI score. The third is the sector comparison, which enables comparisons to be made across different sectors and institutions for specific components. The fourth is the institution breakdown, which presents detailed analyses for specific institutions in terms of their ALI score, the specific components that underpin their ALI score, and how these scores vary as a function of demographics. The fifth and final tool is the custom chart builder, which allows users of the portal to analyse the data by building their own custom charts using any of the questions and profiling variables from the study.
This note is part one of a five-part series on the ALI data portal. The focus of this note is the executive summary.
Deep dive into the executive summary page
Although the executive summary focuses on high level analysis of the state of leadership for the greater good in Australian institutions, it nevertheless conveys a wealth of insight into institutional leadership for the greater good. The executive summary comprises three sections: insights; current ALI results, and longitudinal ALI results.
The insights panel, highlighted in figure 1, presents a plain language statement of the top level results of the latest round of the Australian Leadership Index. Typically, this summary points out key trends and significant changes in the index scores of the sectors, which can vary markedly depending on the events of the period in which data is collected.
Figure 1. Insights panel
The current results panel, highlighted in figure 2, provides a snapshot of the perceived state of leadership for the greater good in Australia by presenting results as simple positive, neutral or negative ALI scores. Interpretation is straightforward: positive scores indicate than a sector is perceived, on balance, as showing leadership for the greater good and negative scores indicate than a sector is not perceived as showing leadership for the greater good. Neutral or close to neutral scores mean that the sector is perceived as neither helping nor harming the greater good.
This results panel presents the ALI scores for the four sectors measured by the Australian Leadership Index, as well as an overall ALI score. These results pertain to the most recent iteration of the Australian Leadership Index. In the example below, the results are for Quarter 2, 2020, which corresponds to June 2020. These results indicate that the public believes that, on balance, Australian institutions are showing leadership for the greater good. At the sector level, the public believe that the government sector and especially the public sector are showing leadership for the greater good, whereas the private and not-for-profit sectors are neither helping nor harming the greater good.
Each sector’s ALI score is the average of the ALI scores of the three institutions that comprise the sector (e.g., the government, public, private, and not-for-profit sectors), whereas the overall score is derived from survey respondents’ global or holistic judgements about the overall state of leadership for the greater good shown by Australian institutions. The institutional composition of the sectors is as follows: government (federal, state and local governments); public (public education, health and justice institutions); private (multinational corporations, large national businesses, small and medium enterprises); and not-for-profit (charities, religious institutions, trade unions).
Figure 2. Current ALI results
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 score is calculated as the proportion of people who believe that a given institution shows leadership for the greater good to a ‘fairly large’ or ‘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 (see Figure 3).
Figure 3. Calculating the Australian Leadership Index
Finally, the longitudinal results, highlighted in figure 4, panel provides key insights into trends in public perceptions of sector and overall leadership for the greater good. This panel presents results for these perceptions of the government, public, private and not-for-profit sectors since September 2018, when the Australian Leadership Index started collecting data.
Figure 4. Longitudinal ALI results
This longitudinal data is fascinating not only because it shows the significant variations in perceptions of the sectors (e.g., the public sector is seen as serving the public interest, whereas the government sector is seen as serving self and vested interests), but also because it shows how influential external events are to judgements about leadership for the greater good.
Consider, for example, public perceptions of the government sector, which is the average of public perceptions of the federal government and state and local governments. To make it easier to see and interpret the graph of perceptions of the government sector, it is possible to deselect the graph of ‘overall’ perceptions (i.e., the red line) and the graphs of the public, private and not-for-profit sectors by clicking on the labels ‘Overall’, ‘Public’, ‘Private’ and ‘NFP’ to the right of the longitudinal chart (see the small red box in figure 5).
When this chart is cleared of extraneous information, it can be clearly seen that the government sector experienced an appreciable drop in public esteem during the 2019/2020 Australian bushfire crisis (Q4, 2019; Q1, 2020), but an unprecedented increase in public esteem during the COVID-19 pandemic (Q2, 2020).
Figure 5. Longitudinal ALI results – government focus
Notably, it is also possible to filter within these results to investigate how demographic factors affect public perceptions. Imagine, for example, that you want to know how political orientation affects public perceptions of government leadership for the greater good. Specifically, imagine that you want to know how people who vote Labor view government leadership. A simple three-step process is all that is required obtain these results (see figure 6). First, click the ‘filter’ icon, which is encircled in red. Second, select ‘Labor’ under ‘voting preference’. Third, click the tick icon at the bottom right-hand-side of the screen.
Figure 6. Longitudinal ALI results – government focus, filtered by voting preference
As demonstrated in this note, the executive summary conveys a wealth of information and deep insights into the overall state of leadership for the greater good in Australia. On the basis of this section of the portal alone, it is possible to glean deep insights into the state, history and prospects of leadership for the greater good in the government, public, private and plural sectors.
In the next note in this series, attention turns to the index breakdown section, which shows how the four sectors perform on the specific components that underpin their ALI score. This section is indispensable to those who want to learn about what the public perceives and expects in terms of the nine drivers of institutional 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.