Many of today's water problems cannot be solved within the traditional boundaries of organizations, disciplines, sectors and routines. Innovative solutions come into being in interplay between a variety of public, private and civil society actors. These so-called governance processes produce new challenges for water professionals, especially for those who want to make a difference. I view these water professionals as public leaders. As most of these professionals work in the context of “high reliability organizations” leadership needs a powerful combination of both encouraging variety, responsiveness and learning and of promoting order, decisiveness and reliable performance. However, not every water expert needs to become a public leader. On the contrary, water experts who are strong in disciplinary fields are still needed, but it is up to the public leaders to organize respectful interactions between these experts and all other actors involved.