SURVEY: Australian business leaders are seen as a self-interested bunch

Photo: Universal Cable

Australian business leaders are not seen as the most trustworthy bunch, according to the latest research.

The Swinburne Leadership Survey, which polled 800 adults in 2014, analyses beliefs about the nation’s leaders and citizens.

It found 75% believed that business leaders were “somewhat or much more concerned by their self-interest”.

The study says that declining trust in national leaders in global reports such as the Edelman Trust Barometer has extended beyond government leaders to include those in business, media and the community.

Australia’s business culture which is “perceived to be elevating private over public interests and immediate benefits over long-term goals is a worrying sign that the long-term interests of current and future generations of Australians are not sufficiently valued today,” the report says.


The study also revealed that nearly 40% believed businesses leaders to be untrustworthy while government leaders are the group seen as the least trustworthy.

It suggests that leadership in business is only apparent when “managers and CEOs position their firms at the intersection of owners, employees, suppliers, customers and the wider community that gives them their social licence to operate. It is not leadership to pursue short-term rises in a share price at the expense of others and future generations.”


James O’Toole, a US professor of leadership, argues that leadership is not simply a matter of style or popularity.

“It is about understanding the diverse and sometimes conflicting needs of society,” he says in the study.

“It is about creating a values-based umbrella large enough to accommodate the various interests of society but focused enough to direct our energies to the pursuit of the greater good.”

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