Leverage is a key career skill, a strategic way of operating that can pay outsize rewards. Successful leaders know how to employ it. They may be subtle or direct, depending on their preferred style. But if you run across someone who has real significance as a leader, you can bet he or she uses leverage every chance they get.

Even if you’re uncomfortable or skeptical with the subject of leverage, you can benefit by understanding the basics of how it works. It differs from building relationships in four ways.

he underlying premise is: You help me and I’ll help you. This reciprocity may be stated and explicitly promised, or it may be implied and tacitly understood. But leveraged relationships always operate to mutual advantage. When you ask for something, you offer something in return, and you and the other person both continue to seek to be of service to one another.

Leverage can be the basis of a relationship, or merely an aspect of a relationship that also has a personal dimension. The point is that both people involved understand they are using one another to improve their access to resources, broaden their professional connections, and create mutually beneficial opportunities. The underlying belief is that a rising tide will lift all boats .Liking the other person is not the primary point, though it’s never a good idea to seek a reciprocal relationship with someone you dislike. That road leads to mutual exploitation, which can look a lot like leverage but has the potential to create an unholy mess. More important than how you feel about the person is how well the two of you are positioned to be useful to one another over time. This is what distinguishes leverage from friendship, though the two may overlap, and very often do.

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