Leveraging – A Buzzword for our Times by Angela Caldin

Leverage, a Noun that’s become a Verb

Leverage has joined that increasing band of words that are now used as verbs as well as nouns, such as impact, access, action, transition, dialogue. I recently proofread the text for a computing website where they were leveraging away like mad, clearly of the opinion that the use of the word leverage as a verb added a certain special something to their site and their brand.

You can use a lever to make a task easier and this gives rise to the noun leverage. The verb to leverage means to use something to one’s advantage to make something else easier or to achieve something. In business and finance, when you leverage an asset to borrow money, you are doing so to make even more money through investment. So, in general terms, you leverage what you already have to gain even more, you exploit it, or take advantage of it, or use it for gain; you maximize the value that can be obtained from it.

Examples:

  • The company is passionate about leveraging technological innovations to solve business problems.
  • He leverages his strong technical background to produce and manage virtual storage designs for large enterprise clients.
  • As Emily used to work with that company, we agreed to leverage her contacts there to gain access to their decision-makers.
  • We can leverage our location close to the client to compete with others who can’t respond as quickly.
  • We must leverage our funds to buy the equipment we need to enable our business to continue its growth.

Leverage: A Despised Buzzword

The Urban Dictionary has the following to say about the verb to leverage:

‘A meaningless buzzword forged from the furnaces of Hell by Satan’s wordsmiths. It used to mean ‘use efficiently’, but today it is inserted into every other sentence in the IT business world to make typical ideas and sentences sound grander. After much misuse, the word leverage no-longer describes anything nor has any meaning to anyone who has ever worked in an office.’

It gives the following example as an illustration of this:

“Steve: Can we take this off-line, I’m hungry. I’m going to leverage a sandwich.

Paula: Great idea, I could also leverage some food.

Steve: Come on then, we can leverage my car to get to the sandwich leverager.

Paula: Good leverage, we should leverage your leverage so we’ll leverage

Steve: Leverage”

It’s true that in business circles this word is very commonly found in place of the word ‘use’ because people think it sounds more impressive. And, in my opinion, if you can substitute ‘use’ for ‘leverage’, it makes sense to do so.

To Leverage A to Achieve B

When you leverage something, you need a second verb in order for the construction to make sense. When you leverage A to do B, B must be something you could do without A, but having A makes B a great deal easier. If having A doesn’t make B easier, it’s almost certainly not leverage. You don’t just ‘leverage the internet.’ You leverage the universal reach of the internet to acquire customers around the world and you leverage the speed of the internet to get things delivered to your door faster than other methods.

Leverage has become one of those words, like synergy and iconic, whose meaning has become clouded by overuse in management and marketing speak. But there’s no need to worry, soon it’ll fall out of favour and other buzzwords will come into fashion.

 

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2 Comments on “Leveraging – A Buzzword for our Times by Angela Caldin

  1. I have never and, since I’ve read Ange’s missive, will never use the word “leverage”. Too complicated for a redneck from up the valleys.

    • It’s a business buzzword, Marge, that’s all, and you’re definitely better off without it. It’s not particularly complicated, it’s just business bullshit.

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