THE top two attributes Asian professionals seek in their leaders are a vision they can believe in and a relationship based on mutual trust, according to a regional leadership survey, which also found Singapore managers particularly wanting their instincts, judgments and contributions to be better appreciated by their bosses.

Asked what they seek most in an ideal leader, 40 per cent on a regional basis (Singapore 35 per cent) picked visionary - someone who "has a dream for our company/group that I can believe in", the Iclif Leadership and Governance Centre's Asian Leadership Index 2014 reveals.

Some 36 per cent of Malaysians also sought visionary leaders but defined such people as "seeing opportunities early".

Aussie professionals (46 per cent) viewed communicative leaders as ideal - defining such an individual as one who "genuinely encourages me and others to discuss and debate ideas and approaches".

Interestingly, about a third each of Chinese professionals polled valued technical competence, and trustworthiness, as the top traits.

Asked what their current leaders need to develop or improve on, 88 per cent selected at least one of the following five attributes: communicative (20 per cent), visionary (20), emotionally aware (17), develops others (17) and empowering (15).

"It appears that Asians are not looking for charisma so much as connection in their immediate leaders," surmised the authors of the 15-month qualitative and quantitative leadership study involving 18 countries across Asia. The report was launched by Malaysia's central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz yesterday.

Only three countries - India, Japan and Korea - did not identify relationship-oriented attributes (as opposed to performance-oriented) among gaps in their leaders.

On a country-by-country basis, five ranked Emotionally Aware (that is, values others' instincts, judgments and contributions - including mine) as the most important trait leaders need to develop or improve on. They are Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam.

India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and Thailand put Visionary as the top gap needing work, while Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Taiwan thought their leaders need to pay more attention to being Communicative.

China and the Philippines chose Develops Others as the key gap while Bangladesh was alone in casting its top vote for Technically Competent.

The report also touched on the notion of Power Distance, studied and popularised by Geert Hofstede in the 1970s.

In the Power Distance Index (scores range from one to 120), Malaysia fared the worst globally occupying top position with a score of 100, followed by the Philippines at 94. Singapore scored 74, while New Zealand was 22 and Austria topped with the lowest score of 11.

Although Iclif cautioned the study was conducted a generation ago, it observed it continues to hear many frustrations with outmoded power structures.