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I am looking for a general term for a person that people "suck up" to or ask favors of often so that they can advance themselves. Essentially, I am looking for a term that would describe a person in power who can give people opportunities, and is also broad enough to encompass multiple areas (academic, government, workforce, etc.).

  • If you want something colloquial, that person could be said to be your meal ticket. "a person or thing that is depended on as a source of money, success, etc." – John Clifford Mar 12 '16 at 0:57
  • Wouldn't everyone in any position in power be someone who is the recipient of flattery? Can you clarify how a person you suck up to differs from a person in any position of power (e.g., boss, supervisor, big wig, etc.)? – Kyle Mar 12 '16 at 1:02
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    Probably too informal and/or sexist, but “the Godfather” and “the Man” often get sucked [up to]. – Papa Poule Mar 12 '16 at 1:24
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    A single word for those whom are being "brown nosed"? Good question. – Mazura Mar 12 '16 at 1:25
  • @Mazura Seeing it from that end of the spectrum could perhaps lead to “a nose-browner!” Anyway, I agree, it’s a good question that got my +1 a bit earlier. – Papa Poule Mar 12 '16 at 1:35
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From the point of view of the sycophant, who would use a complimentary term, and perhaps from the point of view of others, who might not be so inclined, the person flattered is someone they hope to make their

benefactor
A person who supports or helps a person....

(Collins)

Although now tinged with archaism,

patron
1. One that supports, protects, or champions someone....

(American Heritage)

might suit your purposes better than 'benefactor'.

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So the person who is doing the sucking up is a brown nose or sycophant, which according to MW is:

a person who praises powerful people in order to get their approval

So powerful people are the receivers. Looking for synonyms there, MacMillian gives you

magnate, VIP, figure, prime mover, leading light, mogul, eminence, etc.

which all have different denotations, and don't particularly match. I also searched for a generic term for someone who receives a compliment, and came up with a blank. So the relationship doesn't seem to be one-to-one. There isn't a single word because a sycophant may address several areas. If it's a business, maybe magnate, or even boss comes into play. In other contexts, the other words might work. It seems you'd have to pick something to match the context.

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People who do the bidding of unprincipled supervisors or managers are commonly called "brown nosers." However, I was surprised to discover that there's apparently no comparably familiar word for the person who lavishes out those special favors.

One word that works (though it sounds a little clumsy to me) is power broker - one who manipulates the distribution of political or economic power through influence or intrigue. (Such people are often said to be on a power trip, though one doesn't necessarily have to lavish special favors in order to acquire power.)

Another word that can be applied to males is company man - one who puts his employer above personal beliefs and standards. The term company whore includes men and women both. However, this term is a little inaccurate, because you appear to be referring to people who actually do the opposite - they put their personal ego and greed above the company.

We're essentially talking about a process called favoritism, so that word might help track down a better fit for what you're looking for.

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Consider, wire-puller

also (esp. BrEng) string-puller: one who uses secret or underhanded means to influence the acts of a person or organization.

M-W

pull strings/wires

: to secretly use the influence that you have over important people in order to get something or to help someone I may be able to pull a few strings for you if you need the document urgently.

Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed.

pull

Influence; special power or favor; clout: irregularities and instances of political pull (1886+)

Random House

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Upon observing sycophantic and deferential behavior directed at a certain individual, one might say figuratively that said person was "at the top of the food-chain".

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