Iron Fist Velvet Glove

Whether you own or head-up a business or starting a new entrepreneurial venture there is an important truth to accept - a truth that every seasoned founder and CEO has realised.

You are responsible for the success or failure of your business and very few will care about it as much as you do.

The main difference between an employer and an employee is that the first must take all the responsibility for the success or failure of something, while the latter will rationalize where the responsibility should lie or where to apportion blame.

To build a successful business you must have the support of others:

A good team of loyal people around is rare to have, almost impossible to develop, yet essential in the realization of you building a business.

And there are 3 types of people:

1. Those that work for you.

2. Those that work with you.

3. Those that work against you.

Clearly the ideal situation is to develop 1 into 2 and remove 3 – easier said than done as most business owners will rationalize that 3 will get better given time to come around. The answer, similar to every business problem, is: no it won’t go away – and it must be addressed and dealt with.

When it comes to developing your people, the people that you rely on and, by law take responsibility for their actions in your business, there is only one way to be in business. And that is to act in the way everyone thinks you are, even though you are not: Tough yet Just.

Whether it is in your character or not to develop these traits, that is how the world will view you because you are the boss. For most people that is how they rationalize why they are not in business or have a successful business – because they are not tough enough. And they are right. If you do not develop the trait then you will be taken advantage of.

What is the best way to be both Tough and Just? To build a successful business that develops your fortune and the potential of others? To be a Genghis and a Branson? It is to wield an iron fist in a velvet glove.

This is the essence of being a leader, a successful business owner and an employer: To strike a balance between tough yet just, severity and leniency, authority and kindness and reprimand and praise.


Ikeda Mitsumasa, the famous Japanese Daimyo or Lord of the mid 17th Century wrote:

A leader must be authoritative and kind. If you never exert your authority and are always kind then, just as spoilt children will not learn lessons, your subordinates will not do well.

If, however, you constantly exert your authority and are always harsh, you may be successful for a while, but in the long run things will not work out because those under your command will never feel comfortable with you.

To have real authority is to treat your subordinates kindly, and to make them feel comfortable with you, but to exercise justice so that laws are respected.

If you are never lenient, your authority will lose its force, and if you are never severe, your kindness will become ineffective.


Striking the right balance takes time and, while learning, I advocate leaning towards being firm before fair.

A business owner, for example, is the one that is ultimately risking their shirt.

If you lose it, you are naked and have to start making another from scratch. That is not fair to you, but a firm truth all the same.

Above all do not be taken advantage of. When people take advantage of you, you lose.

And that is not being fair to you at all, because they will continue to do so.


The following 10 keys will prove valuable in developing your Iron Fist in Velvet Glove.

1. You must make use of the abilities of others and not just rely on your own.

2. You must address whatever is expected of you by your team.

3. You must be the one that sets the right targets for your team to follow.

4. You must not hold back from giving praise whenever it is deserved.

5. You must make firm decisions and ensure that your team keeps to them.

6. You must surround yourself with the right people and develop a good team.

7. You must apply rigorous standards when training your people.

8. You must recognize that the key to success is all out effort by your team.

9. You must be objective in matters of hiring your people and team.

10. You must be accepted by your people if you are going to succeed.

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