(Influential Leadership) Be Fair But Firm

Now for the fourth and final of the “Four Tests of A Leader.”  If you’re just joining us, here’s the start of the series.  Be sure to take inventory of these four tests so that your followers will know without a shadow of a doubt why they are following you.


“Why Should I Follow You?”

Woman Leading Child


Are you professional who knows your success depends upon leading other professionals? Maybe you lead a consulting practice group, a division in your company, a sales team, or employees of your own business. In any case, winning the power to lead others is no easy task and must be earned.


You must meet some stringent criteria before you can obtain effective influence. Your potential followers are sure to be asking the question: “Why should I follow you?” According to David H. Maister, author of the book True Professionalism, four tests must be met for a leader to answer this question.


Test #4: Fair, But Firm


Once you’ve passed the first three tests of leadership, a follower will be interested in your style. Great leaders are effective coaches, helping everyone on the team to stretch and fulfill their goals. Great coaches must excel at two seemingly opposing skills: they must be supportive and nurturing, as well as continually demanding – nagging their followers to stretch to the next goal.

You must demonstrate both of these skills. If you’re only demanding, you’ll be perceived as Atilla the Hun. If you’re only nurturing, you’ll be perceived as a wimp! In either case, people won’t follow you. What people need in a leader is a friendly skeptic, a loving critic, a challenging supporter – someone who’s not afraid to give both positive and negative feedback, and is involved enough to know when either is due.

Massive Action Step

This week take inventory of your style. Do you lean more towards being nurturing and supportive? Or are you more demanding? If you lean to heavily one way or the other, work on recalibrating your style.


  • If you are always nurturing, make sure you are challenging your people to greatness and hold them accountable for result.
  • If you are overly demanding, how can you be more encouraging and coach them rather than directing them to do what you want them to do?

Summary of This Four-Part Series


Here are the four tests of a leader:

  1. Check Your Motives
  2. Lead From Your Values
  3. Be Ingeniously Competent, and
  4. Exhibit a Style That is Fair, But Firm


It’s been said that, “A leader doesn’t build a business – a leader builds an organization that builds a business.” For you to be perceived as leader, you must be interested in building a team. And you must be prepared to get your satisfaction from the success of others. It’s more about attitude than it is about natural talent.


(Contributed by David Miller.)

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