Power, leadership and transformation: the doctor’s potential for influence


Stewart Gabel, Department of Psychiatry, State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, 713 Harrison St, Syracuse, New York 13210, USA. Tel: 00 1 315 4643110; Fax: 00 1 315 4643282; E-mail: stewart.gabel@colorado.edu


Medical Education 2012: 46: 1152–1160

Context  Power and leadership are concepts that are linked. Both are studied too infrequently in medical and health care settings, given the responsibilities and opportunities doctors and other health care personnel have to exert leadership and power appropriately to foster patient-centred and health care organisational goals.

Methods  This paper reviews Raven’s concept of power, clarifies the bases of power that are available to doctors in different roles and provides illustrations of the application of the bases of power in medical practice. The relationship between power and leadership is explored, with an emphasis on how power and leadership are linked through the personal characteristics and competencies of the leader.

Results  Transformational leadership illustrates the incorporation and elaboration of power strategies into a principles-driven, relationship-oriented and empirically grounded form of leadership. Illustrations of the appropriate and inappropriate use of power and leadership in health care settings are provided.

Conclusions  The study of power, the study of leadership and their linkage should be incorporated to a greater degree into medical education at all levels. Strategies to achieve this end are suggested.