Some compound forms:
Consigliere entered the popular English lexicon through Mario Puzo's Godfather novel and the subsequent films made from them. In these portrayals, the consigliere is an adviser or counselor to a mafia boss, with the additional responsibility of representing the Don in important meetings within the Don's crime family or with other crime families. The consigliere is a close, trusted friend and confidant.
It is reputed that in Cosa Nostra, a consigliere is not simply an adviser; he may be the second highest ranking member of a family, second only to the Don -- in some aspects, he is seen as the Don's right-hand man. As in many royal courts in history, the most powerful position must be kept within the family and the royal bloodline; however, the second most powerful position is often the adviser to the king, a position given to the most qualified man for the job regardless of background.
Most theoretical descriptions of a Consigliere tell of an aged, respected, Mafia veteran who is consulted on a variety of matters. Supposedly, as claimed in Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather, the Consigliere is devoid of ambition and thus bases his advice on what is right rather than what is in his or his boss's best interests. It is further claimed that this position was initially created by the Mafia boss Charles "Lucky" Luciano to shield the ordinary member from a capricious boss.
However, in actuality the truth is much different. For the first half of the twentieth century, the names of the consiglieres of most families were very hard to come across. It wasn't until 1959 that serious intelligence gathering about Cosa Nostra really began. During that era, there were some families with an identified consigliere who fit the aforementioned theoretical descriptions. In 1971, however, Colombo family consigliere Joseph "Joe Yack" Yacovelli was directing a murder campaign against renegade Colombo family soldier Joseph "Crazy Joe" Gallo. Two decades later, a Yacovelli successor, Carmine Sessa was part of a hit team that attempted to assassinate the acting boss, Victor Orena. There are enough examples from recent Mafia history of an active, biased consigliere to bring the theoretical model of the more passive role into question. Additionally, electronic surveillance in 1979 caught New England Mafia boss, Raymond Patriarca Jr. talking about appointing his consigliere.
The status of consigliere in Chicago is different from other regions. The Outfit consigliere is a senior member with more power than the boss in some ways, with privileges such as the first recommendation and final veto on policy and action.
In the movies Godfather and The Godfather Part II, the consigliere to Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), and later Don Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), is Tom Hagen (played by Robert Duvall). Tom Hagen was the adopted son of Don Vito Corleone, and a lawyer for the family. At the end of The Godfather, he was fired as consigliere by Don Vito's successor and son, Michael Corleone, who says "things are going to get rough, and I need a wartime consiglieri." Sonny Corleone, Michael's older brother and Don after Vito Corleone's attempted assassination, yelled the same thing at Hagen. Upon being fired, Hagen was given a lesser role in the mafia organization.
In the television series The Sopranos Silvio Dante is the consigliere to Tony Soprano. His role is very much like the reputed second in command, even taking over briefly as acting boss of the Soprano crime family in Season 6 Part I.
In the video game Mafia (2001), the Consigliere of the Saleiri crime family to Don Salieri is Frank Colleti.