(This post is incomplete and needs some polish, but that will have to wait.)
Power is most often exercised vicariously.
A general does not often pick up a sword and enter the melee. Conversely, the private suffers much more for losing his rifle than a general suffers for losing a war.
The examples of the vicarious exercise of power are manifest. A street gang is led by a powerful central figure or figures while the actual crimes are often perpetrated by the lower-caste individuals at the behest of the leader. Likewise with the mafia, corporate customer support (has the phone company ever answered your call with a real human?), dictators, terrorists, Hitler's Brownshirts and just about every other election campaign.
In "Good" organizations, this arrangement is simply the multiplication of power. "Bad" organizations also gain isolation from their acts through the disavowal of responsibility for the zergling's* actions.
Indeed, it would seem that an ideal way to differentiate a "Good" exercise of power from a "Bad" one would be observing how the leadership reacts to reports of the actions of its zerglings. If they accept responsibility (financial, moral, or otherwise) they tend so set themselves apart from the groups that either fail to acknowledge the crimes or deny any relation. (An especially good leader might even accept responsibility for actions that are truly not the responsibility of the group).
* Not to go into much detail for those not familiar with the computer game StarCraft, but basically Zerglings are the "footsoldiers" of the evil Zerg against the spacefaring Terrans (humans). I chose to use the term "zergling" rather than "pawn" or "zealot" because:
- Pawn tends to indicate a person acting against his will. Pawn also implies a military unit that some entity claims responsibility for.
- Zealot can be defined as an extremist, fanatic or bigot. While those properties often are associated with the footsoldier, a large number of them are attracted to the position simply for the reason that it allows them to carry out sadism and anarchy while being relatively shielded from reprisal.