Advice - Relationships

Leadership Styles and Power Exchange Dynamics

With the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the replacement of our Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week, I have been reflecting on leadership styles, and on how and why some work better than others in different situations. I have been reflecting on how my submissives engage with me as their dominant, and how my practice varies considerably between them, according to our specific circumstances.I have also reflected on my style of leadership within the community.

You may have noticed the language used to describe the late Queen and former Prime Minister, and the contrast between them. People admire certain traits and find others unpalatable. We like integrity, honesty, drive and vision. We dislike self-serving and corrupt leadership. However, I do feel that it’s not always quite that simple. Different leaders have different styles. Different dominants will therefore have different styles of dominance with their submissive(s).

As a dominant, I feel my role with a submissive (with whom I have established a D/s relationship with), is one of leadership and following. A dominant takes the lead and makes decisions on behalf of the submissive in the couple/family/group/household, in my opinion. The decisions made may impact any aspect of their lives, with consent. It may be just in the bedroom, a more wider reaching arrangement, online, financial or whatever they choose to do for their mutual benefit. Whatever the submissive hands over control of, this must be done freely, consensually and without any coercion. Otherwise, it is abuse, which has no place in BDSM culture.

A dominant benefits by having their needs met by the submissive, either by the acts themselves or by the intention to serve that need, or both. A submissive benefits by satisfying a need to serve a dominant and may have other relationship needs met also. That’s how I’ve come to understand how power exchange relationships most effectively thrives.

The leadership styles most mentioned and discussed in business theory are:

1. Authoritarian

The leader sets the rules and expectations, the followers follow. Great if you’re in an organisation with a very specific purpose, but it will not take into account the opinions, creativity or needs of the followers. As a dominant, this is a very one-way approach to power exchange with little room for negotiation. I therefore feel there is a much wider scope for mistakes, mainly because some submissives are so keen to please that they tolerate something they wouldn’t otherwise want. It also places a greater burden on a dominant to know and understand everything at all times, which is unrealistic. This approach will also limit the choices available to them.

2. Laissez-faire

The polar opposite of authoritarian, in that the leader gives their follower full autonomy to carry out tasks. A dominant will give the tools to their submissive, and leave the submissive to carrying out the task, drawing in their own creativity and initiative. Followers that are new and/or need guidance in how things should be done, who prefer high protocol or the like, will struggle with this type of leader.

3. Democratic

This leader will take the opinions of the followers on board, actively seeking their input. This is much more a two-way process between a dominant and their submissive. Options are explored, ideas negotiated, but ultimately the dominant has the final say. Followers of this type of leader tend to feel more valued, and there is usually a greater emphasis on feedback and personal development. But this can be a lengthy process to go through, so anyone looking for casual or pickup type play, may find this style too laboursome.

4. Coaching

This type of leader that wants to support the individual team members achieve their potential, helping them find the tools to prosper. When a dominant takes this style, they may be like a sports coach, cheering the submissive on and celebrating the small gains. It’s great for morale and building a positive environment for the relationship to thrive in. However it’s not so good if time and resources are limited, or if a submissive doesn’t respond well to positivity nor need it.

5. Transformative

These are the big picture thinkers, the ones engaging in organisation-wide change. These leaders inspire change through a shared vision and value individual creativity in finding solutions. A dominant with this style may run a household of submissives. Or they may run events or groups to promote a community wide change. Followers less experienced in the lifestyle may find this style difficult because they may not be fully aware of community problems, may not like living in a BDSM household, or they may not want to engage in the political aspects of the household or community.

6. Transactional

A quid-pro-quo arrangement. Follower does x, leader gives y. Dominant wants A, submissive delivers A to get B. This can work in highly functional dynamics and where both/all parties are happy with the impersonal nature of these dynamics. This style works less well where a dominant enjoys or needs submissives to express their individuality and creativity, or in dynamics where the relationship is more emotional in nature.

7. Bureaucratic

By the book, rule based, functional leadership. In business, this style works well in large organisations with specific functions, but not so well in growing companies relying on creativity and innovation. In power exchange relationships, having defined rules for all submissives, without any leeway for their individual needs, would be unrealistic and problematic. When running events, this style can be more useful, making sure all attendees operate with the same etiquette and standards.

8. Servant

This leader serves the needs of the followers to help them carry out their tasks. The dominant sees their leadership as a duty and service for the betterment of all followers and the objectives of the household or community. Much like how Queen Elizabeth II descrived hercreign as a service to the country. In a D/s relationship, this style nurtures the submissive’s independence and autonomy, which some submissives enjoy. But this style may not be suitable for larger organisations and households, where the dominant will have a heavier burden, and their success and effectiveness will be difficult to measure.

There are other styles in the literature. In essence, our preferred style will work better in some scenarios with certain people, and less in others. Crucially, it is worth remembering that having one style does not make you any more or less dominant. A submissive that enjoys one style of leadership over another is not better or worse, either. We’re all different, with different experiences and perspectives of power exchange dynamics, and our desires and needs may changeover time also. Which is completely OK.

Which leadership style best describes you? Or, what leadership styles would suit you best as a follower? What works well, why, and how can you use this new self knowledge, at work, in the community and in your relationships?

Dea Nexa

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