An iron fist in a velvet glove - Idioms by The Free Dictionary
an iron fist in a velvet glove
Also found in: Dictionary
an iron fist/hand in a velvet glove
something that you say when you are describing someone who seems to be gentle but is in fact severe and firm To enforce each new law the president uses persuasion first, and then force - the iron hand in the velvet glove.
References in periodicals archive
The Swede rarely relishes confrontation with his players - but he's not afraid to apply an iron fist in a velvet glove
His diplomatic efforts to coach with an iron fist in a velvet glove
then suffered a further jolt in an interview with BBC Radio Five Live.