I hope you have been enjoying Rika’s Lair, my monthly column dedicated to thoughts and experiences regarding power dynamics in Service-Oriented D/s relationships. Look up “Ms. Rika” in the search box for links to all of my articles in KinkWeekly!
There is a lot of discussion regarding the concept of “Leadership” in D/s circles. However, the terms “Leadership” and “Dominance” are often confused. In many cases, dominance and leadership are linked and, in some cases, used interchangeably. I see a definitive difference between the two characteristics and point out that, while it may be true that many dominants are leaders – and leaders are dominants, there many people who are one, but not the other.
The basis for the differentiation comes directly from their definitions:
Leadership (from Forbes magazine): is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.
Dominance (from the Oxford Dictionary): Control; authority; rule; supreme influence.
The key differentiators are Control and Authority. Notice that leadership stems from social influence, not authority or power. Leadership requires others, and that implies they don’t need to be serving the leader directly. In the case of a D/s relationship, the submissive commits to serve the dominant and gives the dominant the authority in the relationship. They are yielding control to the dominant, who is given the right of expectation to expect and demand fulfillment of their wishes. Leaders do not have right to such an expectation.
I think it’s true that there are natural leaders who are also dominant. I tend to think I’m one of them. However, many of the subs I’ve met, including my husband, have been leaders outside of their relationship with me. Natural leaders in their fields, natural leaders on teams, natural leaders in their endeavors…but in their personal relationships, they exposed their (also natural) submissive side. We all know of the stereotype wherein a powerful executive chooses to be the slave of a dominant. While I’ve argued that this is more driven by a desire for regression, and that, in the majority of cases, the executives are actually LEADING the relationship through the use of their wallet and are really only bottoming for their own pleasure, I also know of many cases where people in leadership positions, choose to fully submit within their personal relationships as well.
I also know dominants who are not particularly good leaders. Either through a lack of desire to lead, or through a lack of the skills necessary to influence without the need of authority. They may be awesome, loved dominants – but you wouldn’t want to follow them into battle!
This leads me to conclude that we always need to consider an individual’s natural leadership potential within the context of a relationship type. As I have pointed out in my books and prior articles, there are many relationships types…not all romantic; not all deeply personal. I believe you can be naturally disposed within the context of one relationship type – and differently across other relationship types.
Taking it up a level of abstraction, there are the relationship types surrounding groups of people and common goals (think CEO, Team Captain, Project Manager) – I know, and know of, many great leaders who lead with the intent to accomplish something – organizing others to achieve a common goal.
Then there is the context within relationship types between two people and the dynamics of their attraction – The leadership in this area presents far differently and can have many flavors of the types of dominance and submission discussed here. It seems to me that SOME people have both types of leadership – but it’s perfectly possible, and even prevalent, to have a dominant leadership style in one context and a submissive style in another.
One place where leadership and dominance tend to be erroneously conflated, is in discussions of “FLRs” – “Female Led Relationships”. Very often, FLRs are used interchangeably with relationships where the female is dominant. I hope by now it’s clear that these really aren’t the same thing. The 1950’s, “MLR” equivalent, was the “typical” household represented by the “Dick Van Dyke” show. For those of you young-ins who never saw it, YouTube it: Great writing, good comedy, and loveable characters – but I digress. In this typical 1950s house, Robert Petrie ran his home and was clearly the “leader”, but there is no way he dominated Laura Petrie! In fact, it would not surprise me, in the least, to discover him suckling on the heel of her shoe behind closed doors (right behind a lot of submissive guys I’ve met, who loved her)!
Even though it may be true that many dominant women also lead their households, it is not a given that every FLR is a D/s relationship. Every “follower” is not a submissive. There are different INTENTS (my favorite word) to following than there is to submitting. You might follow as a convenience, or as a means to avoid doing something you find unpleasant or difficult for you. Many dominants delegate decisions to their submissives – and follow their lead – in areas where the submissive is just better at the task than the dominant, or that the dominant just isn’t interested in leading. That doesn’t make them any less dominant. You can never tell intent by looking…you need to understand the individuals, the context, and the motivations.
Ms. Rika is a lifestyle dominant, educator, and author; living in the suburbs of NYC with her husband/slave. She has written several popular books on her approach to adding Dominant-Centric, Service-Oriented D/s to relationships. You can find her books (in both print and eBook formats) at Lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/msrika), or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iStore, Books-A- Million, Kobo.com, or anywhere books are sold. Search for “Ms. Rika”. Write to me at Ms_Rika@hotmail.com