Business Partners Style #1 of 4: Dominant—Non-Dominant

A key feature of the Dominant—Non-Dominant relationship dynamic, is that one person is in charge and ultimately makes final decisions. Typically this is a one owner or business leader situation, where full responsibility falls on the shoulders of that individual. When carried into a business partnership, the Dominant—Non-Dominant dynamic may be a clearly stated agreement. In this case it is an agreed upon mindset or perspective from which all discussions are had, goals are set, decisions are made, action is laid out, and accountability is followed—achieving the end-results, the expectations of the dominant person.

Without such clarity, confusion may ensue.


When the “who’s in charge” question is apparent, theoretically differences, disagreement, or conflict would not arise nor be addressed. It would be clear that the dominant individual’s preferences take the lead. If we focus on power and productivity in day-to-day relating within a Dominant—Non-Dominant dynamic, it will be experienced as more autocratic when it is demanding or domineering in nature. Such leaders are referred to as dominating, bossy, or dictatorial. Sharing of ideas and information feels unwelcome or stilted. Respect is absent, trust is not built, nor is it possible under these conditions.


Another version of day-to-day with a dominant leader is experienced as capricious. Without a clear focus, or a strategic plan thoughtfully shared with the business partner or other team, they appear to generate needs and demands arbitrarily, and change their decisions quickly and seemingly randomly. This relating approach is so sporadic it often leads to great inefficiency and frustration. It can also lead to fear of failure in those around this unpredictable leader as there is not consistency or regard for individual capabilities or contributions.

Ultimate Decision Maker

In a healthy Dominant—Non-Dominant dynamic, a dominant leader may seek ideas and input from a business partner and others, in order to come to a decision. This can feel collaborative when it is done consciously and when there is a clear expectation the leader will make final decisions, no matter how excellent the input. However, if the dominant individual is unaware of how they approach feedback, appearing to invite collaboration and participation, and if they and those around them are unconscious of how the dominant person ultimately makes decisions, such interactions will eventually feel like bait and switch to those involved.

Entering into an on-going business partnership or transition to future partnership arrangement with a dominant leader of long experience can be challenging for all sides. The transition should be well thought out, roles defined, and consequences discussed—for the satisfaction of all parties involved. A transition done in defined stages with opportunity for each party to make conscious adjustments in the power dynamic around goal setting, decision-making, and communication needs offers the greatest opportunity for a successful outcome.

Dr. Jan Hoistad

Business/Career/Executive Coach, Relationship Expert, Blogger, Author

When a business partnership is going well, it’s great. There’s energy, creativity, productivity. Differences put partnership stability to the test. Coming together as business partners pools connections, spreads financial risk, may increase the employee base, and expand the marketplace. Difference can feel like something resolvable together. But when experienced as threatening, it creates disconnection. If there is out-and-out conflict, a business partnership can quickly deteriorate and spread negativity like a virus throughout a team or company. Having the mindset, tools, and skills to navigate together is a necessity for a smooth functioning business and long-lasting partnership.