With my first I pushed for 4 hours. No one directed me (well, after 2 or 3 hours the MW started suggesting position changes and encouraged me to push into the pain more) and I started pushing because I had to, not because anyone told me I should. He was clearly malpositioned (had back labor too) though not clearly posterior or anything obvious. I have since heard it called "throwing down" and that was exactly it... it hurt like hell, and constantly felt like he was "almost there" but he wasnt moving at all for a long time. I was lucky that he finally did what he needed to do and moved down, and I got him out with only a skid mark and some major hemmorroids to show for it.
: (And a lot of relief we were not in a hospital where I would have been episiotomied and vacuumed if not sectioned).
DD was the classic fetal ejection reflex. My MW suggested I check myself because I was sounding pushy, and as soon as I was aware of her head being right there she started coming down. I just had to breathe and concentrate on not interfering. I did push and change my leg position slightly to get her shoulders out, though.
Overall I prefer the 2nd method
but I wouldnt say that a long or hard pushing stage is always due to pushing too soon or directed pushing. Sometimes it just happens.