The Power of One: Using Power and Influence to Create Change


In The Impossible Will Take a Little While, Paul Rogat Loeb shares that “even in a seemingly losing cause, one person may unknowingly inspire another, and that person yet a third, who could go on to change the world, or at least a small corner of it.” When one thinks of a changemaker, the image of a leader with a formal title or position comes to mind. We often picture a president or CEO as the sole figures capable of inspiring and enacting change. While that sometimes holds true, we often forget that leadership can be exercised through the use of our own power and influence, no matter our title or position.

Power, defined as the agency or ability to both act in a particular way freely and to direct or influence the behavior of others, allows one to be seen, heard, and valued for their perspectives and opinions. When leveraged well, power can also create psychological safety. By reflecting on how we use and practice power within our communities, we highlight the humanity within ourselves and others, even in times of crisis.

Leveraging power and influence can be seen in the following stories surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic:

  • How One Seattle Health System is Managing the COVID-19 Crisis – During times of adversity, innovation and creativity are given an opportunity to flourish.  Healthcare executives from Swedish Medical Center in Seattle have empowered their teams on the ground to “craft creative decisions,” creating agency for their care teams and “the kind of resiliency that our current crisis requires.”
  • Medical Students Rally to Help Tucson’s Homeless Amidst Pandemic – University of Arizona medical students are finding ways to help and give back during the pandemic.  With guidance from licensed volunteer healthcare providers, a group of medical students are volunteering at Z Mansion, a popular downtown wedding venue that doubles as a soup kitchen, to prepare meals and screen the homeless for COVID-19 symptoms. “Medical students feel it is their duty to assist in times like these,” said medical student Christopher Vance, who has volunteered at Z Mansion for the past six years. “We saw an opportunity to put our training to use and help our community.”
  • Portable Sinks for People Living on the Street – Homeless populations are more susceptible to spreading and contracting COVID-19 due to lack of proper sanitation. Love Beyond Walls, a Georgia-based nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness of the realities and needs of those experiencing lack of housing, places portable handwashing stations around the United States so homeless populations are able to wash their hands to protect from the spread and contraction of COVID-19.

As each of us enacts our own forms of power, a collective hope is that we consider legacy, the ideals and practices one leaves behind, and we think more critically about how power is leveraged and integrated into our lives. When we do, we follow in the footsteps of the University of Arizona Medical Students, professionals from Swedish Medical Center, and the team at Love Beyond Walls. By leading from where we stand and using our power and influence wisely, we can create a ripple effect of change that will be felt in the decades to come.

How have you practiced leadership in your own community? Comment below.

Download our Relational Brief to learn about how you can lead from where you stand.

Agnes Morelos

Agnes collaborates with the PCP team to support database management, grant prospecting and donor stewardship, and content strategy and creation. Outside of work, she enjoys volunteering, running, freelance writing for health and social impact startups, and catching up with family and friends around the Boston area and the West Coast.

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