Considering the Teamwork Model for Service-Focused Relationships

For me, the paradigm that resonates for service-focused power dynamics is a team working together to achieve a common goal. The power differential in the team can be negotiated, but the main cohesion is the sharing of values and a long-term vision. In my opinion, this paradigm works well for the service-focused relationships inspired by the butler archetype that we examine at The Kinky Butler.

In Building the Team: Cooperative Power Dynamic Relationships by Raven Kaldera and Joshua Tenpenny, the authors outline their understanding of the teamwork paradigm. While this idea wasn’t new to me, it gave me the language to describe how I felt and what I was already doing. 

I had many ‘aha!’ moments while reading Building the Team. The authors describe an adversarial relationship model in contrast to the teamwork model. An adversarial Master/slave relationship might include fear of punishment as a motivator and consider occasional defiance acceptable. When I first began to wonder if I desired an M/s dynamic, my only understanding was based on the adversarial model, which I didn’t relate to at all. As I learned that many Master/slave couples consider themselves a team, rather than a battle of wills, I finally realized that I resonated deeply with M/s.

One defining factor of the teamwork model that the authors describe is that, “the slave wants to obey, and eventually to achieve an excellent standard of obedience.” Regarding motivations, far from a fear of punishment, “…[t]he best motivations are achievement, excellence in their roles, wanting the relationship to go well, and wanting to please the master.” Personally, fear breeds resentment – I did not serve tyrants, no disrespect to those who do. Instead, I prefer to serve those that kindle my ambitions, empowering me to reach for standards of success that may otherwise be inaccessible.

This reflects what vanilla butler Steven Ferry has written about the professional butler mindset: “He commits himself to his employers and cares enough to exceed their expectations and create extra-special moments.” I believe a service-focused power dynamic inspired by the ideals of teamwork is ideal to facilitate the ongoing and anticipatory service that a butler offers. In my perception, this is because achievement and ambition motivate much more strongly than fear and punishment. 

Additionally, the teamwork model works well for a hierarchy involving multiple people, such as a Leather household. Roles such as the Principal, a butler, and a houseboy are both historically accurate and entirely workable. In an adversarial model, the Master might be overwhelmed trying to wrangle and manage two or more slaves, but the teamwork model focuses on all individuals’ responsibilities and shared goals.

The authors of Building the Team also point out that “…[t]he assumption of both parties is that the responsibility for making the M/s dynamic work is equally on both people.” This resonates with me as a servant. While a servant may do much or all of the housework, for example, the Principal must work to inspire that service. Servants do not labor for nothing. Each has their own unique motivations for service and needs regarding what they must get in return. Understanding this and working to inspire this service is a core responsibility of the Principal.

When orienting a relationship around the teamwork model, it may be productive to consider the ways that realms of power influence your understanding of the roles involved. You may be in what Building the Team describes as separate spheres roles where each person involved controls different sets of duties. As the authors note, it’s vital that the Principal receives “very good information from their partner in order to make larger decisions, or else they need to decide to step back and trust the subordinate partner entirely.” This mirrors the positions of a professional butler in that the Principal has their own pursuits while the butler handles every aspect of the household. The Principal guides in a broad way, but does not micromanage the day to day aspects of the servant’s duties.

For me, the teamwork model makes a great deal of sense for a service-focused power dynamic that uses the butler archetype. If you have a different model in your power exchange dynamic, how do you exercise that in your dynamic? What does that look like? Does the teamwork model resonate with you? Please comment below!

3 thoughts on “Considering the Teamwork Model for Service-Focused Relationships”

  1. Wow this resonates so perfectly with me and my desires! My (vanilla ) partner has trouble understanding the appeal to serve. I can’t wait to share this blog with them.

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