Relationship dynamics, power, desire. Each of these exist both at home and at the office, but we often separate the two. As a society we aren't comfortable talking about sex and think that maintaining a boundary between our home lives and our work lives is not only professional but healthy.
However, each of us is one whole person--who we are at home is also who we are in business. In fact it's possible that you may be able to learn more about who you are as a leader, if you are willing to pull back the curtain of your romantic life.
As Valentine's Day approaches and we all start to converse more openly our romantic lives, I sat down with business consultant Bob Gower and health and wellness coach Alex Jamieson, a married couple who are diving into this topic, together. They've learned that embracing independence, sexuality, and yes, dominance, can shake up a necessary dynamic and produce surprising results.
What prompted you to begin to see that there were leadership lessons hiding between the sheets?
Alex: My own discovery process included getting fit and healthy with nutrition and movement that suits my life and body. I've learned the deeper work, and more powerful leadership skill, is to trust your body and feel good in and about her. When you like and trust your body, you feel confident in your instincts, intuition, and beliefs. No matter what size or weight you are, you are able to ask for and go after what you want in every area of life.
Bob: When I was a young man I lacked confidence both professionally and with women. As I worked on one I noticed that the other also improved. For instance, I learned that having the courage to ask an attractive woman on a date required the same internal skills that stepping to the front of the room in a business meeting did.
Part of this was learning about power dynamics from BDSM teachers and learning that often the most caring thing you can do for someone is to take charge. This can be true in the bedroom, the living room, and in the boardroom, where if no one steps into the leader role often nothing gets done.
This is leadership as an act of service and care, not domination.
What has been your process to get to your conclusions?
Bob: We've recently gotten curious about how people who do erotic domination professionally--dominatrices--approach their work mentally. A surprising number have come from caring professions like doulas and therapists and found this work more fun and lucrative, while also feeling nurturing and healing.
Popular culture has it wrong in our experience. Far from being hard, domineering, or selfish, these women come from a place of deliberate care and tend to be excellent communicators.
Alex: These professional doms have the mind-body connection that allows them to explain and experience power and leadership.
What in your mind is the role of power when it comes to leadership today?
Alex: Power is the ability to act or the capacity to direct or influence others' actions. Today's leader needs the physical and emotional stamina to continue working with and for other people. This resilience and power is always based on your physical capacity to keep returning to the task. Powerful leaders maintain their own well-being as a necessary tool for effective leadership.
Bob: I think the role is shifting from an identity "I'm the boss and you'll do what I say" to the role "I'll take the lead on today's call." This has been driven by more women in the workforce and in leadership roles, as well as by the increasing complexity and uncertainty built into most work these days that requires more collaboration and curiosity.
Does great sex require power play?
Alex: Many sexual health and sexuality experts all say a variation of the same thing: we're all different and nothing is bad as long as all the players agree on the rules. One person's great sex is another person's nightmare!
What trips up a lot of people these days is the desire to be egalitarian, if not downright feminist, and the belief that to be equal we need to take the power play out of the bedroom.
Bob: A big problem I think we have is that we tend to judge one as better and the other worse. Dominance equals power while submission equals weakness in many people's minds. But the truth is more interesting and complex.
In the bedroom it can be fun to play either role no matter what your reflexive preference is. And in business it can be as powerful to follow as it can be to lead.
What 3 lessons have you learned that make a person a better leader in the boardroom?
Bob and Alex: First, all good leadership comes from care. If you don't deeply care about the person you are leading you will end up abusing someone and also creating a worse business outcome.
The second is boundaries. If you are following, it's important to know that if you just blindly do what the other says, they won't get what they want. In a knowledge work environment we need the whole person to show up. And the same is true of great love relationships.
The third is conversation. You have to know the people you're going to engage with romantically or professionally. The conversation can take many forms but the main points to cover are intentions, concerns, boundaries, and desires.
How have these insights shifted your thinking?
Alex: It's easier for me to play with the roles of leadership and power in different aspect of my life and business. Many women desire to be powerful leaders in the workplace or in their daily life, and want to play with being more submissive or handing over the reigns to their partner in their intimate encounters. I now see that those seemingly opposite desires honor the various aspects of our true selves.
Bob: I've found that the more personally I engage at work, the better my business outcomes. If I can sometimes be more business-like romantically and sexually, then that also gets much better.
Learn more about how embracing independence, sexuality, and yes, dominance, can shake up a necessary dynamic and produce surprising results at dominatingtheboardroom.com.