From Jim:

“Leverage” has become a significant if not dominant concept in the corporate lexicon and it’s now a buzzword used every day in many ways. Here are examples of how I’ve heard “leverage” used: “He carries a lot of leverage” and “You’re not exercising the right leverage” and “How do we leverage these relationships?” and “We need to leverage this negotiation” and “We have to leverage our human capital.”

So just what is “leverage?”

Leverage is using something you already have---in the case of human capital the skills, knowledge, and experience possessed by the employees of a company---to achieve something new or better.In other words you don’t have to invent something to achieve your objective. You can use what is already present.

So what about emotional leverage? What do you think and how do you feel about the idea of using people’s emotions to achieve some objective? Many people would say it’s repulsive, unfair and controlling, and what’s worse, even devious and manipulative. But is it really?

For the purposes of this post, consider that you are managing a person who is a passionate idealist. He assesses his decisions and actions through the lens and measure of his ideals which he holds dear. However you, as his manager, can clearly see that his commitment to his ideals, partly conscious and partly unconscious, is standing in the way of his getting along with the members of his team. His believes that the other team members fall short of what he views as acceptable. According to him, unless they can “come up to” his bar he has difficulty working with them. But he is an excellent talent and an asset to the company. What do you do?

You can request that he be given an individual contributor role. But for the overall purposes of your department he has been assigned to you and it makes most sense that he be on your team.

You can try various techniques to “get him” to conform. But trying to change someone, no matter how important or valuable your objective, is generally a futile endeavor. People don’t change unless there’s something in it for them. So what do you do?

People Buy Emotionally and Justify Logically

An axiom in sales states that people buy emotionally, whether it’s an object or an idea, and use logic to justify what they’ve bought or bought into. To sell or persuade someone of something you must begin with establishing emotional appeal.

Idealists crave that which transcends the bounds of the material world; because for them reality is fundamentally mental and mentally constructed. They are less attracted to money, or titles, or material things---although unconsciously that may be a different story as long as you can link it to their beliefs. They are powered by ideas placing high value on emotional self-awareness as a precondition for the bettering of humanity. Applying the sales axiom to facilitate change you must begin by “embracing” rather than resisting what the idealist holds dear---his need for excellence, the purity of his point of view, and his desire to contribute to the betterment of humanity. That’s where you will find his emotional base. In sales it’s called the “sweet spot.”

This describes only part of the idealist’s character structure but it will do for the purpose of illustrating the power of non-manipulative emotional leverage.

What he is committed to is generally of high value. If his beliefs can be used to turn him toward cooperatively it would benefit the team and his own sense of fulfillment.

Emotional Leverage

To employ emotional leverage begin by recognizing that emotions are information, not unlike thoughts. They are data points you must assess. If your intention is to benefit him as well as yourself you won’t abuse his emotions. You won’t disrespect or abuse what he values. But you must keep his emotions at an arm’s length. You cannot become immersed in them or you will lose your ability to assess and determine what is best for both of you. For the purposes of persuading him to become a better team player you must see his emotions as a lever to move him.

To succeed using emotional leverage you must:

● Remain aware that his vision is the product of an emotional base and, no matter how he rationalizes his position, he clings to it for some emotional reason;

● See that if you want him move in your direction enough to be able to work well with the team your task is to discover the emotional value that drives his vision---his sweet spot; and

● Understand that once you know his emotional sweet spot you can craft an approach that blends his need with yours so that you both can feel successful.

And you are doing so by leveraging his emotional state.

To reiterate, you are using something he already has, his passionate idealism, to achieve something new or better for you and for him.

The point here is to keep in mind and be sensitive to the emotional elements involved---mostly in him. In that way you can use emotional leverage to best serve him, your team, the job, and the company, and not least of all yourself as an excellent manager.

This example of an idealist is only one of many personality types you will encounter but the process of emotional leveraging remains the same.

How do feel about emotional leveraging? Please let me know.

Author's Bio: 

Judith Sherven, PhD and her husband Jim Sniechowski, PhD have developed a penetrating perspective on people’s resistance to success, which they call The Fear of Being Fabuloustm. Recognizing the power of unconscious programming to always outweigh conscious desires, they assert that no one is ever failing—they are always succeeding. The question is, at what? To learn about how this played out in the life of Whitney Houston, check out

Currently working as consultants on retainer to LinkedIn providing executive coaching, leadership training and consulting as well as working with private clients around the world, they continually prove that when unconscious beliefs are brought to the surface, the barriers to greater success and leadership presence begin to fade away. They call it Overcoming the Fear of Being Fabulous