Australia's leadership deficit

Earlier posts have discussed theories of high performance.  Readers may wonder why it is so difficult in practise. 

Perhaps one of the underlying issues is our inability to consistently execute these practises.  A 2005 review of leadership research reported the base rate for managerial incompetence in corporate life ranges from 30-75% (average: 50%)[1]

Is it really that bad in Australia? Regrettably, there’s no reason to imagine it is any better. 

Australia’s recent productivity performance hardly fills you with hope.  We might imagine there is some penetrating analysis that will shed light on these issues, but perhaps the answer is at once simpler, but also more complex.    

In 1995 David Karpin found Australian managers were lacking management skills.  A decade later a global benchmark study found Australian managers were 2nd class.  We ranked about equal with France, Great Britain and Italy; significantly behind the lead countries (US, Sweden, Japan, Germany and Canada).  A 2009 benchmark study across the manufacturing industry also found Australian managers were very much poor cousins in terms of ‘people management’[2]

So Australia has a structural deficit in management talent.  That’s the simple part of the puzzle. 

The harder question is: what can you do about it? 

You could start with Netflix’s ‘keeper test’.  Which of your managers would you fight to keep if they told you they were going to another company?  Why?  Run that test across the top 50 leaders in your company. How many would you fight to keep?  And what are you going to do about the rest?


[1] Hogan, R., & Kaiser, R. B. (2005). What we know about leadership. Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 169-180

[2] Green, R., Toner, P., & Agarwal, R. (2012). Understanding productivity: Australia's choice: The McKell Institute.