Skip to the content

Unlocking Potential with Leverage: A Positive Approach

Adapted from writings by Paul Ericksen, Senior Supply Chain Advisor to CAPS Research


The timeless wisdom of Archimedes echoes through the ages, reminding us of the incredible power inherent in leverage. "Give me a place to stand, and a lever long enough, and I will move the world." These words inspire us to explore the vast potential of leverage, particularly in the realm of supply management negotiation strategies, where it plays a pivotal role in achieving mutual success.

At its core, leverage embodies the ability to magnify force, much like extending the length of a lever amplifies its impact. In the world of procurement, understanding and effectively applying leverage can pave the way for achieving financial objectives while fostering positive relationships with suppliers. While some may view leverage solely as a tool for immediate cost reduction, its true potential lies in driving ongoing, optimized results.

However, the journey toward leveraging power in negotiations isn't always straightforward. Procurement leaders often face challenges in articulating the broader benefits that the supply chain team brings to the table, such as enhancing customer fill rates and gaining a competitive edge. Despite these hurdles, the practice of Aggregation & Centralization emerges as a common strategy for harnessing negotiating leverage.

Yet, the key lies not just in wielding power but in doing so with finesse and diplomacy. Teddy Roosevelt's famous dictum, "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far," offers valuable insights into the art of negotiation. Roosevelt's emphasis on diplomatic strength over brute force underscores the importance of building relationships based on mutual respect and fairness.

Drawing inspiration from Roosevelt's negotiating principles, procurement professionals can navigate negotiations with integrity and efficacy:

1. Establish a foundation of strength to command attention and focus on key issues.
2. Treat suppliers with fairness and respect, fostering trust and cooperation.
3. Maintain honesty and transparency, avoiding the pitfalls of bluffing.
4. Strike decisively when necessary, but always with careful preparation.
5. Preserve dignity and allow room for compromise, avoiding unnecessary conflicts.

Regrettably, some organizations have fallen into the trap of adversarial tactics, jeopardizing productive supplier relationships. By viewing suppliers as partners rather than adversaries, and prioritizing long-term collaboration over short-term gains, companies can unlock the full potential of leverage.

In essence, the synergy of Archimedes' principle of leverage and Roosevelt's negotiating ethos offers a pathway to constructive engagement and sustained success. Recognizing negotiation as a collaborative endeavor, where both parties can achieve their goals without diminishing the other's, opens the door to a new paradigm of supplier relationships—one built on mutual trust, respect, and shared prosperity.

CAPS is a B2B nonprofit research center serving supply management leaders at Fortune 1000 companies. CAPS Research inspires leaders with profound discovery and executable strategies to shape the future of supply management. Research reveals the destination, benchmarking charts the course, and networking creates the path to transformation. All CAPS offerings are sales-free, bias-free, and practitioner-driven. CAPS was established in 1986 at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University in partnership with the Institute for Supply Management. Learn more at

About the author

CAPS Research

CAPS Research

Take a survey,
get a report

Non-members can receive the report of each survey they submit.
Members can access all reports, but are encouraged to submit surveys to
increase the comparative breakouts only they receive.