Ink vs Inc

Leaders – Wonder How to Blend Ink with Inc?

Tattooing is a popular way for some people to express themselves. Whether the ink someone wears is a sign of independence or a not-so-subtle message, I’ve seen a lot of really impressive artwork on forearms, calves, ankles, and shoulders. Nowadays, age doesn’t seem to be a limiting factor for all things ink. Using this ancient art form gives many an amazing outlet for expression.

Ink vs Inc

Employees sporting tattoos pose interesting challenges for companies of all sizes. Do you allow it or not? If a person has a tattoo, do they have to cover it while on duty? There are many things to consider. Simply put, the corporate or business mindset may often clash with those wearing ink. It can be styled ‘Ink vs Inc’.

As I was thinking through the obvious aspects of this debate, I was struck by another side of this paradox as it applies to leaders.

If “Inc.” represents the formal elements (policy, procedure, and governing rules of the road) of running a business and being a good leader, then “Ink” will be about personal expression. I suggest that effective leadership should be a blend of both.


Leadership has often been confused with charisma. Yes, there are famous leaders who were/are incredibly charismatic. Charisma has a way of setting the leader apart from the crowd. We tend to like our leaders better if they demonstrate a little charisma. It’s that little glimmer of personality, confidence, or spark that makes the leader likable and relatable.

You could argue that INK (personal expression) plays into charisma. It’s that dose of style that makes the edge. I don’t suggest running out and getting yourself tattooed if you don’t already have one. Rather I am saying that finding your own bit of personal edge that can play into your leadership style can make a big difference.

Managers coming up through the ranks can become stiff. It’s as though there is this idea that you must be stern and rigid to be a good leader. Not so. Being able to flash a bright smile (if that’s your thing) can win the hearts of those around you. Breaking the ice with a good (and appropriate) story is also a good skill to work on. Displaying other, more subtle traits can add to your style too.

Here is a list for you to consider:

Empathetic Listening

Type-A personality leaders have a tendency to charge through discussions with team members. Once a statement is made, this kind of leader plows full steam ahead. They tend to be “all business”.  The employee who thought they offered a good suggestion gets no sense of recognition for the idea. They begin to feel taken for granted.

Hard-charging leaders should work even harder to learn empathetic listening skills. When you intend to have team discussions, then take it in. Savor the moment. Acknowledge the things others are saying by feeding it back or asking clarifying questions. If you like the idea, say so.

Better Interaction

It’s an old-school management teaching that says you can’t be friends with your employees. That is still true in many ways. Yet you can be relevant and relatable. How? By engaging.

Business doesn’t have to be full on, 24×7. Take that extra moment at the coffee bar or water cooler to say hello, ask how people are doing. If you have heard about a family situation, acknowledge it. Ask how things are going. Be genuine when you do.

Take that short few minutes before a meeting, when people are gathering in the hall, to put down your phone and interact. Small, but genuine talk, goes a long way to add warmth to your style of leadership.

Celebrate Wins

As you and your team achieve goals and make deadlines, celebrate the victory. Enjoy your wins. You cannot sustain a great team by chalking off the wins to “well, that’s what we were supposed to do.”

Figure out a way to have a touchdown dance in the end zone. Enjoy the achievement. Let others do so too. Most teams intend to work hard. When a goal is reached or a deadline is met, your team deserves recognition. If nothing else have a short team meeting to do nothing but say “Way to go guys!”

Setting Your Style

Every leader has a style. Good or bad, you get pegged for having some distinct approach to leading your teams and business. Likable or not, effective or not, you get labeled as having some kind of style.

Rather than having the stuffy INC spirit, why not add a little INK?

Question: What’s your leadership style? Leave a comment

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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