Want good leadership? Look here


Can anything good come out of this pandemic? You’d be surprised!

The pandemic has refocused our attention on the leadership we’re getting. Findings of a survey of Australians says we’re bursting with confidence. 

Researchers from Swinburne University have been conducting a long-running Australian Leadership Index (ALI) to gauge public perceptions of leadership for the greater good. 

Over the past five weeks, they have asked Australians to judge the performance of various institutions during the current pandemic.

Each institution receives a score based on the number of people who said the institution showed leadership.

Prior to the pandemic, the public had a dim view of the state of leadership. However, in the week of March 13-19, in specific response to the COVID-19 pandemic, public sentiment entered positive territory for the first time in a year and a half. Even more striking, these perceptions improved week-on-week into late April.

Governments


The improvement in public perceptions is most remarkable for the Federal Government, particularly in light of the recent bushfire crisis.

Throughout the bushfires, the public consistently judged the Federal Government’s leadership for the greater good as poor. Throughout the crisis the ALI score was negative – most people thought the government was failing to demonstrate effective leadership.

Fast-forward to April and the Federal Government’s fortunes changed dramatically. The results for state governments are almost exactly the same, but interestingly, state governments have trailed the Federal Government in most of the weekly polls.

Public sector


Confidence in the public sector has also boomed largely due to our public health institutions, which have been judged overwhelmingly as showing the greatest degree of leadership for the greater good of all institutions measured.

Public health institutions have also far outpaced private health institutions in our surveys during the pandemic.

The future


The researchers conclude: “The COVID-19 pandemic has necessarily brought the wider public interest to the fore, and institutions across all sectors have instigated measures to protect the greater good."

“To be sure, crises crystallise a shared understanding of the common good and encourage people to pull together in a manner not typical of more ordinary times."

“Nevertheless, by shining a light on leadership for the greater good and how it can be improved, this pandemic may yet have a silver lining for the future.”

Yeah, but why?


While the authors don’t shed much light on why there is increasing confidence in leaders, one journalist has claimed that the national cabinet has been pivotal in providing important checks and balances to our federated system.

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, columnist George Megalogenis claimed “The national cabinet is his [Morrison’s] once-in-a-generation innovation” in which, “The incentive for co-operation between leaders overwhelms any urge to appease their respective bases.”

This, he argues, has led to better decisions and outcomes.

If only regular politics was this good.

Authors


The following authors were responsible for the findings above, which first featured on The Conversation website:

  • Samuel Wilson - Senior Lecturer in Leadership, Swinburne University of Technology
  • Jason Pallant- Lecturer of Marketing, Swinburne University of Technology
  • Sylvia T. Gray - Research Assistant and Casual Academic, Swinburne University of Technology
  • Timothy Colin Bednall - Senior Lecturer in Management, Fellow of the APS College of Organisational Psychologists, Swinburne University of Technology.