Subordinates are impressed by GMs who possess, display, and implement these traits at the human level: 1. Fairness: a GM who would rather make a mistake than commit an injustice; 2. Quality work (as opposed to quantity, or minutia to detail); 3. Honesty. It is interesting that these traits are revealed at the human relations level and are also reflected at the level of corporate culture and image.
It seems to me that what you want to be recognized for is the consistency of your FAIRNESS, as opposed to your style. While style is clearly important, I find that it is okay to have different approaches to different problems. However, what you must protect is a reputation for fairness. Once you lose that, you have a very tough time motivating people.
I always held (before B school) that a manager needs to be "firm, fair and consistent" and somehow that dictum became a whole lot less clear and simple afterwards. Nevertheless, in many ways the threads still hold true, it's just you need to be "consistent" to something a little deeper.
I would say that, in (most of) what I attempt to communicate and do, there is a consistent pattern or set of overall objectives which I communicate freely and frequently. In our case, even when emphasizing change and all the actions required to follow that through, I have tried to act in a way that is consistent with an overriding set of objectives.
I have found that treating people as adults with honesty and openness gets the best results. Confrontation is essential to this process to make sure that issues are identified and resolved quickly. Confrontation often scares people, but if you are fair they can handle the fear. An unwillingness to accept unsatisfactory performance and anything less than adult behavior is essential to setting standards. This can lead to making tough decisions, but you need to do it or you lose credibility.
On the matter of toughness of questions, I think a GM does have some license to ask tougher questions at the risk of angering some of the staff as a right of his position. However, any manager risks some loss of support if he steps over the line. It is a fine, undefined line here and one must use lots of judgment.
One must remember the responsibility of the GM is to his shareholders, board of directors, or to his corporate management first and foremost. As a GM, one must prefer to be respected rather than necessarily liked. Both are preferred but one's duty comes first.