As a Dominant wife the duty falls to me to lead my spouse. Yet there are many myriad means to do so – what types of leadership are available to me? What forms of domination can I learn about, that way I can better choose my own path?
Going my own way is definitely the path for me – archetypes and stereotypes are well and good, but they do not live up to the fluidity that makes up life. It's also way more fun to creatively blend types together and cherry-pick features you love.
Furthermore, I already know that some archetypes are entirely beyond my interest. I know I can't be the cold femdom that offers cutting insults and emotional distance. This works for a scene, but it does not serve as a healthy foundation for a 24/7 Domme dynamic.
Instead I find myself drawn most towards Domme roles involving growth and mentorship and transformation. I want to give my partners everything – more than just play and scenes. I want to sharpen them until they are finely honed, capable individuals. I want to push them to greatness, and in turn be pushed to better myself. I wish to serve and be served, and I want to share the gift of happiness with my partners.
In my eyes, dominance is illuminating. It empowers, enforces honesty, and reveals people's natures. It is about leadership, which does not abide delusions of control for long. It is one thing to believe you have control, and another to see it twisting from you in life's chaotic throes. Instead of control it is about grace and gentle influence to bring partners into alignment.
I feel that this depiction is at odds with how others describe their dominant side – such as the darkness within them, or the giddy rush of a power trip. I think a large part of my view comes from my mother: she was the strong woman in charge who deliberately chose to fill her life with lovejoy and happiness. She was my first role model for leadership.
I took a business management class where I first formally learned about leadership styles, and the class began with the "great man theory." This theory feeds into the narrative of heroism and genius, where "great men" arise that are innately better than the rest of us mere mortals. They're smarter, more charismatic, or more decisive than everyone else.
I find the theory to be a load of falsehoods peddling a fixed mindset narrative amidst hero-worship. Yet the great man theory still shapes the corporate world with C-suite executives and boards. It's worth knowing about because – true or not – it is an aspect of the world we live in.
Besides being wary because of the start to the class, I enjoyed learning about a whole series of leadership styles. Of course the most important step to learning any soft-skills is actually putting them into practise, for which I am grateful for having my dearheart around to try out new things. The desire to dominate may come naturally to me, but the skills of dominance and leadership take experience.
Before examining specific styles deeply, it's worth mentioning that great leaders are adaptive in their styles. They tailor their approach to the situation and people involved, and swap it up if something's not working.
I've seen officers come out of military service and expect their autocratic power to follow them into the civilian world. They would then stumble and fall flat when they find that they can't just order around civilian technicians, and have to convince technicians that something is in their own best interests.
A great leader should be able to reliably fall back on several different styles to get things done. They should not get trapped within their one preferred style, lest the people they lead fail to respond to it.
The first style is transactional leadership, the basic rewarding "if you do X then I will give you Y." It can also be punitive, for instance "Clean the kitchen by six o'clock or I'll spank you."
This style of leadership is more tactical, in that it's focused on short term and specific outcomes. That makes it great for interacting with people you're new to leading, and it can serve as a standard fallback option for when you're not sure how to approach a situation.
Next is the democratic leader, who ensures that everyone's voice is heard. I strive to listen when my dearheart voices his thoughts, and to elicit them with gentle prying when he does not volunteer them.
In the power dynamics of two, however, there must be a tie-breaker. That tie-breaking vote is mine by virtue of being the Domme. Always I reserve the privilege to break a deadlock in favour of one way or another – and surprisingly often, I rule in favour of my dearheart's vote to avoid abusing my power.
Then there is the autocratic leader. Centralised decision making can be a boon when decisiveness is needed, or when the autocratic leader has a strong grasp of a strategic picture. Yet ordering people about can also stifle followers, making them feel unheard and misused.
This style of leadership is stereotypical of what people would expect from a Dominant. Unilateral decision making, total control over their submissive's life, and plenty of direct ordering around. That's only possible to do in a healthy way if there are down periods outside the heat of the moment where communication happens. You need lots of feedback to give good orders, and that feedback is hard to get in the moment.
Bureaucratic leaders are more traditionally found in workplace environments, but they also exist in personal relationships. They rely on rules, either explicit or established via repetition. This provides some stability and predictability, but can also lead them to inflexibility. In relationship dynamics these kinds of leaders expect you to do the dishes if you've done the dishes before, or expect you to take turns watching the kids because it's an established pattern.
Bureaucratic leaders may establish routines like "Food must be ready when I walk in the door," and "Bedtime is at 9 pm and you must kneel and wait for me to uncollar you before you can climb into bed." Or they may spend every day for a week saying "Give my shoulders a massage" and expect their sub to pick up on the pattern and anticipate their need for the next days.
There are transformational leaders, something I yearn for in my professional life. Transformational leaders seek to empower their followers to take ownership of tasks. Instead of letting workers run out the clock, they aim to motivate followers to work towards the common good. There's also an emphasis on ethics, cooperation, and clear communication. In short, trying to align values that make it sustainable for followers to engage in.
This style of leadership comes up in my dearheart's power dynamic. I've impressed the value upon him that his actions reflect on myself. He needs to be impeccable in how he carries out duties because they affect not only his reputation, but mine too.
Furthermore the key aspect of transformational leadership is taking ownership over your work. If I gave my dearheart a list of tasks, he would learn to do them and likely nothing above and beyond them. It's better to motivate him to independently seek tasks on his own, that way he lessens my burden instead of constantly coming back to me for new tasking.
Another style I relish is that of the servant leader. They put the needs of their team first and foremost. They sacrifice their own time and energy to develop their team. A servant leader will often understand that they can make their team more productive by clearing away problems for their team than by working independently.
This is ultimately the single largest contributor to how I lead my dearheart. I serve with my leadership, taking his wants and goals and using my skills to put actionable plans in place. I provide the motivation and discipline when necessary, and clear away roadblocks as they come up.
Finally, there are hands-off leaders, or "laissez-faire" leadership. Hands-off leaders tend to only be involved in the start and end of a project. This is also a passive leadership style that relies on self-directed followers. Without that self-direction, being hands-off quickly becomes mismanagement.
When I was young, I thought that I'd never want to be in charge of others. Yet my mother saw something that compelled her to tell me "Whether you like it or not, people will follow you."
At first I shied away from my nature, thinking it morally wrong to govern another's life. Yet in my teenage years I came creeping back to dominance like a curious cat, not understanding what I was seeking. Service held a special place in my heart, but I knew not whether I wanted to serve or be served.
Experimentation started with me serving others. There were both good relationships and glaringly foolish mistakes, as I eventually found myself in an abusive relationship where my every waking minute was totally controlled. Reaching the low of powerlessness made me realise how deeply I hungered for autonomy over my own life.
When I met my dearheart, one of the first conversations about kink we had he explained that he was dominant when it came to men and submissive when it came to women. I slowly edged my way into the role, and discovered that it felt right. Then I fell entirely into it and spent my time learning about different styles of dominance.
In the broad sense I see five main categories of dominance: being laid-back, being strict, guiding and giving direction, selfishly taking what you want, and artistry/practising skills (i.e. rope topping, flogging, wax play). As with leadership there is a fluidity between different dominance types depending on the context.
Within these categories are plenty of flavours of dominance. For laid-back Dominant examples there are loving and nurturing Dominants, gentle Dominants, as well as playful or teasing or sensual ones. Laughter is more common than crying with some of these type.
Under the strict category there are disciplinarians, rule-makers, and Dominants who train their submissives. Oftentimes they break out punishments tailored to the severity of the infraction, reminding their subs what not to do.
There are also guiding Dominants who offer mentorship and relationship direction, and Daddy Doms/Mommy Dommes. DD/MDs may also be more laid-back, depending on how they act. For instance, a Daddy Dom can serve as a pressure relief valve for a little, or they can act as a mentor. In the latter case, they're a guiding dom – they help their subs grow and learn new aspects of kink.
Another classic staple is the selfish Dominant that uses their submissive as they please, perhaps as a toy – they take what they want, when they want it. Some take this to the extreme, and there's great volumes of erotica written about being dehumanised to the point of being a sex toy. It need not always be so intense, however. It could be as simple as the Dominant comes first, and the submissive second.
Finally there is artistry, with a whole series of skills that can be pulled into the service of domination. Sadism and screwing with people's headspace, subjugation, humiliation, rope topping, impact play, edge play, photography, and so forth. Such a style is more play-focused, usually for those who are not lifestyle dominants.
It should come as no surprise that I think of myself more as a guiding, laid-back Domme than anything else. I have little interest in stamping out the rules lawyering that strictness can descend into – I care more about the spirit of my wishes than exacting compliance to my words. Words will fail me at inopportune times anyway. Likewise I have few selfish inclinations, and my dearheart is disinterested with being objectified.
Being a guiding Domme pairs well with leadership, because so much of both involves growing your partner. Besides that I can also provide direction and give orders. Of course, I'm also ultimately accountable for another person too. My successes become their successes, and their failures become my failures.
Practising leadership styles is relatively easy within our D/s dynamic. I simply meditate on a particular leadership technique before choosing some tactics to employ for the week. For instance, asking my dearheart "What do you think?" helps bridge a more democratic style. Likewise learning to give clear orders helps embody an autocratic style that removes indecision from our daily life.
I'm grateful for the safety of my dynamic to learn within. Leadership skills tend to be difficult to pick up, unless you are privileged enough to have a career that lends itself to it. I hope this meditation on dominance and leadership has been as helpful for you as it has been for me!