I never want to be so experienced in BDSM that I can't pick up new style points. I was playing lately with a woman who transformed herself from BDSM virgin to mildly terrifying dominant in just two years. The fascinating part of her fast-forward journey is seeing what kind of dominant she's become. To learn from other dominants, I first ask: Is this person primarily into psychological dominance, service-oriented dominance, or sadism? Most BDSM tops incorporate elements of all three, and tastes can shift over time. But usually someone will have a special flair in one of these areas.
The psychological dominant enjoys things like forced crossdressing and verbal humiliation. If you put someone on a leash and make him crawl around and bark, that's psychological dominance. Anyone who says "You're my slave, and you will wear this collar every day" is practicing psychological dominance. This type of dominant is the one most often caricatured in pop culture as the snarling, sneering asshole, but psychological dominance needn't be overtly mean. Any kind of iconic role-play—teacher/student, boss/secretary—is psychological dominance, and it may be authoritarian, but it's not necessarily cruel. And dominants who do "Daddy" or "Mommy" relationships are traditionally affectionate with their partners. Psychological dominance is the type of dominance at which I least excel, so I'm impressed by people who do it well.
The service-oriented dominant wants you to do things—giving orders and having them obeyed is the turn-on. The tasks may be symbolic, but they will usually have some practical value, too. The psychological dominant wants you to lick her boots, but the service-oriented dominant will hand you a bootblack kit and teach you to polish them up nicely. This can look exploitative to the untrained observer, but dominants of this kind are not just looking to off-load chores. It's an interactive scene: He/she enjoys watching the submissive carry out the tasks, correcting and guiding as necessary.
The sadist likes dishing out intense sensations. I myself am primarily a sadist. I don't have any desire to own someone; the care and feeding of a slave is way more responsibility than I want. I appreciate it when submissives do nice things for me, and I can give instructions for tasks if need be. However, it often seems simpler to just polish my boots myself. No, what turns me on is doing things to your body that scare you and make you scream. Of course, one man's scream is another man's warm-up, so my scenes vary greatly. But I like pushing you right up to the edge of what you think you can take—and maybe a tiny bit further.
There are other types of dominants, but the aforementioned serve as jumping-off points. Oh, and my friend? She's a very creative psychological dominant. I'm watching and taking notes. She might be new, but anyone who goes from zero to scary that fast has a talent worth studying.