In Summary

  • The Australian Leadership Index has officially launched
  • The research is led by Dr Sam Wilson, Dr Jason Pallant and Dr Timothy Bednall
  • The Index is a first-of-its kind project to create a new national dialogue about leadership in Australia

Swinburne’s Australian Leadership Index, a new publicly available tool that measures public perceptions and expectations of leadership, has officially launched.

Led by Swinburne researchers Dr Sam Wilson, Dr Jason Pallant and Dr Timothy Bednall, the Index is based on the largest ever survey of leadership for the greater good. It reveals Australians’ views on leadership in the public, private, government and not-for-profit sectors.

Each quarter, the research team surveys a representative sample of 1,000 people across Australia and a full year’s worth of data is now available on the Australian Leadership Index portal.

Dr Wilson says the project has uncovered fascinating insights into the publics’ perceptions of leadership across all four sectors, with many sectors falling well-below Australians’ expectations.

“Perhaps the most dispiriting and striking finding is that the institutions that are supposed to be the custodians of the greater good – federal, state and local governments – are seen as showing no leadership in this space,” Dr Wilson says.

“By contrast, the institutions with which we have regular contact in the public sector – schools, hospitals and police services – are seen as showing much more leadership for the greater good.”

Should federal government be leading the way on climate change?

Climate change poster

The Index reveals Australians are dissatisfied with the federal government’s leadership on environmental issues such as climate change.

Currently, there is a 44 per cent gap between how the public expects the government to perform on environmental outcomes and how they perceive its performance.

“This divide tells us that people expect a lot more from our leaders in government when it comes to acting on environmental issues. They feel it’s the government’s responsibility to lead the way in addressing climate change, yet it is seen to be doing little to address the issue,” Dr Wilson says.

A lack of faith in religious institutions’ leaders

Priest poster

Australians rated religious institutions as one of the worst performers in terms of leadership for the greater good, according to the Index data.

In particular, religious institutions are seen to be lacking in transparency, ethical standards and accountability.

“Interestingly, older generations have much higher expectations of transparency and accountability amongst religious leaders than younger generations, suggesting that, among young people, religious leaders are not regarded as the ethical leaders they once were,” Dr Wilson says. 

Socially responsible institutions are well-perceived 

Homelessness poster

Charities are perceived as demonstrating the most leadership for the greater good, performing well on social outcomes, balancing the needs of different groups and being responsive to society.

“Charities such as The Salvation Army and the Red Cross are seen as leaders for the greater good because, by their nature, they are committed to providing support to those in need. People see charities taking direct action to aid particular causes, such as homelessness, so perceive these institutions as contributing to and bettering society,” Dr Wilson says.

“Conversely, the state government is seen as lacking leadership on issues such as homelessness, underperforming on social outcomes and responsiveness to people and society.”

Creating a national dialogue about leadership

The Index is a Swinburne-pioneered, first-of-its-kind project that aims to create a new national dialogue about leadership in Australia and to improve the practice of leadership for the greater good.

The Index data portal is a freely-available resource for researchers, journalists and the general public to understand and report on the state of leadership in Australia.