A fundamental lack of confidence in global leadership is posing a serious challenge to prospects for tackling the world’s most pressing and dire challenges, according to new research published by the World Economic Forum.

The Global Leadership Index, based on a survey of over 1,200 experts from the Forum’s Network of Global Agenda Councils, says that 86% of the respondents agree that the world is facing a leadership crisis. The index also says that there are lower levels of confidence in leaders from religious organizations than any other sector.

Over half of the respondents doubt religious leaders’ ability to play a constructive role in addressing global problems. Leaders from government rank second lowest among the eight sectors surveyed, with 58% of respondents saying that they don’t have confidence in members of their government not to abuse their authority and power. Business respondents cite dissatisfaction with governments’ ability to deal with economic crises.

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However, leaders from the non-profit and charitable sectors inspire the greatest confidence, followed by those in business and education. The Global Leadership Index also offers insight into the perceptions of leaders in individual regions. Experts in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, express greater confidence in business and religious leaders than any other region, while Latin American experts are the most enthusiastic about the abilities of leaders of international organizations. North America-based experts, meanwhile, have the lowest confidence in business leaders, while those in Asia are most sceptical of the non-profit and charitable sectors.

A global perspective and the ability to collaborate are the two most frequently cited qualities for good leadership. However, perceptions of leadership skills vary. Male respondents rank courageousness and inspiration, and female respondents cite social justice and high morals. There is also a difference between young and old: the 20-29 age group put empathy and collaboration in their top three; the 70+ bracket select experience and courageousness.

“This research reveals a massive shake-up of traditional values, which is underlined by civil society emerging as the most trusted stakeholder. To reclaim leadership status, politicians need to be seen to be serving the greater good again, while international organizations must find new models of governance to demonstrate that they are capable of meeting expectations,” said Martina Larkin, Senior Director, Head of Global Knowledge Networks, World Economic Forum.

The Global Leadership Index uses methodology based on the National Leadership Index, created by the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School. In addition to measuring confidence in individual sectors, the index also offers insight into experts views of leadership within their own country.

Among a sample of 15 countries, the index finds that Switzerland enjoys the highest rates of confidence, and Pakistan the lowest.

Author: Peter Bisanz, Associate Director World Economic Forum Global Agenda Councils. 

Image: A boy touches a 45-metre (148-feet) long wall lighted by colour rays at an exhibition hall in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei province May 1, 2007. REUTERS/China Daily