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Zeger van der Wal: The Public Manager in the 21st Century'

Managers in the public and semi-public sector work in an increasingly complex and unpredictable environment, which demands new knowledge and competences but also offers tremendous opportunities. This was the view presented by Zeger van der Wal, professor by special appointment in Public Administration at the University Leiden, in his inaugural lecture on 3 March.

The government today changes rapidly, and consequently also the role of the public manager. According to Zeger van der Wal this is not in the least part caused by technological developments, which put major pressure on institutions to go along with the flow.

As professor by special appointment, van der Wal will focus on this field. According to him, an important skill public managers should have is political smartness, or more accurately 'cunning'. 'Public managers are increasingly confronted with capricious or populist politicians who make promises that simply can’t be kept.’ Therefore, managing the balance between standing firm to offer resistance on the one hand and not being an obstructive power is more important than ever. 

Furthermore, skillfully handling social media plays an ever greater role in communication: ‘There are many different platforms, each with their own language and mores. You have to learn to understand and use them, not only in a defensive way but also for actively checking plans, presenting ideas or disseminating information. Public managers must be social media-literate, as it were.’ At the same time, the public manager should engage all generations, rather than only the 'millennials'. 

Read the full interview by VNG


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