Recently a person who is somewhat prominent in a certain scientific/technical field asked me to "lean on" a young professor who showed great promise in this field a few years ago as a grad student, but who has since found being a new faculty member rather overwhelming and so hasn't progressed with this work.
My first reaction was that it would be highly inappropriate and no doubt stress-inducing for a senior professor (me) to "lean on" a younger colleague about this. I happen to know that he is well aware that he needs to make progress on this particular research.
Upon reflection, though, I wondered if there was a constructive way to "lean". Mentoring can be a constructive form of leaning, although mentoring is most effective if it involves conversations over time, not just a random "leaning" now and then.
And even if I did "lean" on my colleague, what would I say? For example, the following statements are all in the spirit of "leaning" on someone, but are not particularly nice or constructive:
"Some prominent people in your field think that you have failed to live up to your early promise and are wondering if you are ever going to publish anything. They asked me to push you a bit on this issue." [cruel, with ominous subtext re. the consequences of this failure]
"What's the latest with that fascinating research you gave a talk on a year or two ago? Did you write that work up yet?" [not obviously cruel, but might be interpreted as such in a passive-aggressive work-harder-if-you-want-tenure kind of way]
I think I will I forgo the colleague-leaning for now and provide instead some longer-term friendly support and conversation.
6 months ago