Becoming a Competent Boundary Spanning Public Servant

Living reference work entry


Growing interdependencies and cross-boundary collaborations are key characteristics of contemporary public sector. In the field of public management and governance, we therefore see an increasing interest in research and practice in boundary spanning behavior in order to align people, organizations, and processes. However, practicing boundary spanning behavior is not straightforward; it demands certain skills, traits, and experiences of competent public servants working in collaborative and interorganizational settings. These so-called boundary spanning competencies are fragmentedly discussed in the literature. What do future public servants need to learn and to master in this respect? To what extent can they be trained in being competent boundary spanning public servants? Or must a boundary spanner have a certain personality? Or does boundary spanning come with years of experience? This chapter goes deeper into these questions and provides an overview of different boundary spanning competencies. First, different types of boundary spanning activities are discussed. Next, a discussion and review of relevant boundary spanning competencies will follow. Subsequently, it is discussed to what extent these competencies and characteristics can actually be trained and what might be educational methods in this.


Boundary spanners Cognitive competencies Social and emotional competencies Training Games 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Erasmus UniversityRotterdamThe Netherlands

Section editors and affiliations

  • Paul Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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