Written by Vlad Demsar, Samuel G. Wilson, and Melissa A. Wheeler
The Australian Leadership Index team have put together their Naughty or Nice List ahead of Christmas and the New Year, reflecting on how Australia’s institutions measured up to public leadership expectations in 2022.
It has been another rollercoaster year full of change, controversy and action, with Labor winning the 2022 federal election, state and federal governments managing integrity issues and rising cost of living pressures putting extra strain on Australian families. We’ve also seen continued strain on emergency services and emergency departments with flooding events and continued COVID-19 pressures re-enforcing our reliance on these services and the need to support the workers in this sector.
These issues require strong leadership and institutional integrity, and for the most part, public perceptions of these institutions are improving. But while some are performing well there are a number of ‘naughty’ institutions that need to lift their game if they are to meet the Australian public’s expectations of leadership.
NICE LIST: INSTITUTIONS LEADING FOR THE GREATER GOOD
The public sector continues to rank highly with Australians. We love our higher education, public health, emergency services, Australia Post and even our law enforcement, despite some publicised integrity issues, particularly in Victoria.
Charities and supermarkets on the other hand are performing well – with the not-for-profits supporting Australians through tough times and grocery companies seen to be responsive to consumers’ needs through COVID and beyond. In the wake of the pandemic, it’s also unsurprising that we have warm feelings about pharmaceutical companies. They can keep the vaccines coming.
Perhaps more interestingly, despite supply chain issues and constant disruptions, Australians still think retailers and travel companies are doing well. These industries have been hit hard by rising costs and surging demand post-pandemic and perhaps Australians have some empathy for companies that continue to deliver strong service despite these roadblocks and setbacks.
NAUGHTY LIST: INSTITUTIONS FAILING TO MEET PUBLIC LEADERSHIP EXPECTATIONS
Australians are not fans of aged care, state governments or the federal government.
However, under the quiet leadership of Anthony Albanese, the federal government seems to be turning things around, with our feelings about federal leadership improving. Seeing how these institutions trend in the months ahead will be of keen interest for the ALI research team, particularly as the Albanese Government’s honeymoon period comes to an end.
Our stereotypes of banks, finance and insurance companies are fairly consistent with what we really think of them: they’re not great leaders, they lack integrity, and they rank low on competence. Mining companies scrape through just a notch above banking, finance and insurance – but not by much.
Ranking just above the bottom are religious institutions and media companies. Both have long been middling performers on ALI metrics and need to do more work in improving transparency standards to improve in the eyes of the public.
And in the bottom spot is leisure and gaming companies – with Crown and Star casinos exemplifying what we don’t like about them, as laid bare by recent royal commissions. Whether these commissions and the changes recommended by them generate serious change is something the Australian public will no doubt be weary of in 2023.
THE NEED TO IMPROVE LEADERSHIP PERFORMANCE IN 2023
Australians are tired of leaders and institutions that prioritise self-interest over the broader public interest. We want people, companies and sectors who can drive innovation, find more sustainable ways of operating and promote health and wellbeing.
There are a number of paths to improving leadership perceptions and in 2022 the need to address impacts on the environment was a big focus for a number of institutions. Working with sustainability in mind does not go unnoticed by the Australian public. The Australian Leadership Index’s data shows that perceptions of contribution in this area have risen significantly this year, particularly across government, private and not-for-profit sectors.
The main drag on leadership has been institutional integrity, with integrity issues plaguing governments, public institutions and the private sector alike. To get onto the nice list, institutions need to improve their commitment to and practice of integrity, as inferred by their transparency, accountability and sustainability. Part of this is having a clear purpose and vision and acting for the greater good – not just greater profit margins or seats in parliament.
In the post-pandemic world, the need to make positive contributions has been magnified, and will likely be how the Australian public judges the institutions that serve them. Australians yearn for leadership for the greater good and this is a worthy and timely north star towards which to strive in 2023.
ABOUT THE INDEX
Re-launched in October 2021, the leadership index is the largest ever, ongoing research study of leadership in Australia, created by Swinburne University of Technology. The research aims to improve leadership across the government, public, private, and not-for-profit sectors by tracking how Australians view leaders and reporting the results back to leaders and the community via an interactive online platform.
The Index surveys thousands of Australians on an ongoing basis and quantifies their perceptions of leadership, and its three main drivers: integrity, contribution, and competence (as well as several other key metrics). Participants are asked to provide a score from 0 to 10 on each dimension, and results are converted to a score out of 100.
Australian Leadership Index survey results are updated monthly and publicly available through an interactive online dashboard (available here).