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Leadership for the greater good and responsiveness to society

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Leadership for the greater good and responsiveness to key stakeholders

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Creating value through responsiveness to society

The Australian Leadership Index (ALI) is a national survey that provides a comprehensive picture of perceptions of leadership for the greater good in the government, public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

The ALI model of institutional leadership for the greater good delineates three sets of indicators of leadership for the greater good that pertain to the type of value that institutions seek to create, how institutions create value, and for whom institutions create value.

For each of these indicators, we measure public perceptions and expectations. In addition to this, we calculate the relationship between perceptions of each indicator and overall perceptions of leadership for the greater good, yielding insights into the key drivers of public perceptions of leadership in the government, public, private, and not-for-profit sectors.

This note is part of a three-part series on the stakeholders for whom institutions create. The focus of this note, the second in the series, is on the extent to which institutional leaders are alive and responsive to the interests and needs of the broader population – society-at-large.

A note on the survey process

The results reported in this research note are the average of the results obtained from quarterly ALI surveys (1,000 people per quarter) between September 2018 and March 2020, which represents seven quarters of data collection. 

Respondents are recruited via an online panel by Dynata and 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. 

What is the relationship between responsiveness to society and leadership?

One of the many factors that makes leadership complicated is identifying the stakeholders whose needs and interests ought to considered in any given decision or course of action. The growing appreciation of the need to consider the interests of specific communities, society-at-large and future generations further complicates the work of socially responsible leadership.

What role do public perceptions of leaders’ responsiveness to the interests of society play in public perceptions of leadership for the greater good in the government, public, private and not-for-profit sectors?

ALI research reveals that public perceptions of responsiveness to society is a strong predictor, or dirver, of perceptions of leadership for the greater good in the government, public, private and not-for-profit sectors. This means that the more institutional leaders are perceived as responsive to society, the more they are perceived to show leadership for the greater good.

Responsiveness to society at the sector-level

Having established the relationship between responsiveness to society and leadership for the greater good, it’s pertinent to consider what ALI reveals about perceptions and expectations of responsiveness to society in the government, public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

The public have high expectations of the degree to which institutions in the government, public, and not-for-profit sectors should be responsiveness to society. Two-thirds of respondents expect the government, public, and not-for-profit sectors to be responsive to society to a “fairly large” or “extremely large” extent. By contrast, the public have moderate expectations of the degree to which the private sector institutions should be responsive to society.

The public sector is regarded as the strongest performer in terms of responsiveness to society, with 36% of respondents judging the public sector as responsive to society to a “fairly large” or “extremely large” extent. However, as it is held to the highest standard by respondents, the public sector is associated with the second largest gap between perceptions and expectations of responsiveness to society (34-percentage points).

The not-for-profit sector is a close second, with 35% of respondents judging the not-for-profit sector as responsive to society to a “fairly large” or “extremely large” extent. The not-for-profit sector is associated with the smallest gap between perceptions and expectations of responsiveness to society (31-percentage points).

The government sector is seen as the weakest performer on this criterion, with only 24% of respondents regarding government as responsive to society to a “fairly large” or “extremely large” extent. Consistent with this, the government sector is associated with the largest gap between perceptions and expectations (i.e., a 46-percentage point gap).

The private sector is perceived similarly to the government sector, with 28% of respondents regarding business as responsive to society to a “fairly large” or “extremely large” extent. The private sector is associated with the second smallest gap between perceptions and expectations (i.e., a 32-percentage point gap).

Figure 1. Perceived and expected responsiveness to society, sector-level, Sept. 2018-March 2020

Figure 1. Perceived and expected responsiveness to society, sector-level, September 2018-March 2020

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

Responsiveness to society at the institution-level

Charities are regarded as the strongest performer in terms of responsiveness to society, with 51% of respondents judging charities as responsive to society to a “fairly large” or “extremely large” extent. Consistent with this, charities are also associated with the second smallest gap between perceptions and expectations of responsiveness to society (23-percentage points).

However, perceptions of charities differ markedly from the two other institutions that comprise the ALI measure of the not-for-profit sector; namely, trade unions and religious institutions. Trade unions and religious institutions are perceived by only 26% and 27% of respondents, respectively, as responsive to society to a “fairly large” or “extremely large” extent.

Although charities are associated with the most favourable public perceptions of responsiveness to society, public health institutions are also well-regarded, with 42% of respondents viewing these institutions as responsive to society to a “fairly large” or “extremely large” extent. Within the public sector, public education and justice institutions are perceived less favourably, with 35% and 32% of respondents, respectively, judging these institutions as responsive to society to a “fairly large” or “extremely large” extent.

Similar patterns are observed for the institutions of the private sector. National businesses and multinational corporations are viewed by 25% and 24% of respondents, respectively as responsive to society to a “fairly large” or “extremely large” extent. Consistent with this, the institutions are associated with some of the largest gaps between perceptions and expectations. By contrast, the public expects considerably less from small and medium enterprises (SMEs) than other types of business and evaluates SMEs more favourably, which produces the smallest perception-expectation gap of all institutions measured by the Australian Leadership Index.

The institutions of the government sector are perceived as among the worst performers in terms of responsiveness to society. The Federal Government is perceived as the least responsive to society of all twelve institutions measured by the Australian Leadership Index. Specifically, only 22% of respondents view the Federal Government as responsive to society to a “fairly large” or “extremely large” extent. Consistent with this, the Federal Government is associated with the largest gap between perceptions and expectations (48-percentage points).

State governments do not perform much better. Only 24% of respondents view State Governments as responsive to society to a “fairly large” or “extremely large” extent, which, when combined with high expectations of State Governments, produces the same large gap between perceptions and expectations as demonstrated by the Federal Government (48-percentage points). Local Governments are perceived somewhat better – 26% of respondents view Local Governments as responsive to society to a “fairly large” or “extremely large” extent.

Figure 2. Perceived and expected responsiveness to society, institution-level, Sept. 2018-March 2020

Figure 2. Perceived and expected responsiveness to society, institution-level, September 2018-March 2020

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

Please note that full details about public perceptions and expectations of responsiveness to society in government, public, private and not-for-profit sector institutions are provided in the ALI 2019 Annual Report, which is available here.

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