At any given time, there are thousands of ‘advisers’ to governments and public sector institutions facing complex and delicate situations. On the surface, it seems that there are big differences among them: many are nationals and others ‘internationals’, they have of course different types of expertise and they find themselves in very different contexts. Notwithstanding, an implicit or explicit objective of their advisory role is to contribute to more efficient and effective public sector institutions. An effective public sector can be an important factor contributing to ‘good governance’, if there is also a very healthy relationship between government and citizens.
The effectiveness of an ‘adviser’ depends on a variety of factors, many of them out of her or his control. Other factors however are more under the control of the individual adviser, and can be consciously cultivated as personal competencies. Effective advisers do not only have their ‘thematic expertise’. They also come with an understanding of and competencies related to capacity-strengthening and change processes. They actively seek to understand the various contexts in which they operate, which is a learning process. They are able to exercise good situational judgment, and can see tactical opportunities to move forward towards a greater strategic goal. They have excellent interpersonal skills, also across ‘cultures’. Confronted with challenges and dilemmas, they show pragmatism but also rely on a strong moral compass. They can do this because they have a maturity and self-mastery that is the result of conscious personal development.