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A Rebel's


Unflappable Leadership: Lessons from the Depths

Navigating the Pressures of Leadership with the Poise of a Free diver


William Trubridge

In freediving, the consequences of not knowing how you will respond to pressure carry life or death consequences. Think about the last time you were surrounded by pressure, not of water, but of expectations, decisions, and responsibility. How did you find your way to clarity? How did your body and mind react? Were you in control of the situation or was the situation controlling you? What did your team see in you during those moments? 

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5 Minutes

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Freediving has taught me profound lessons that have shaped my approach to leadership – lessons about the power of composure, the wisdom in patience, and the unique acquired skill needed to perform under pressure. But above those three, high self-awareness might be the most impactful one. So let's explore that one first.

Embracing Self-Awareness

When you're over a hundred meters below the surface, the world above seems like a distant memory, and life is quickly simplified. Every decision counts and every movement is measured. You find yourself with yourself and nothing more. What you have done to prepare your mind and body is in the past and all you have now is who you truly are. No gimmicks or pretending. Only your authentic self will make you resurface safely.

Just as with the clarity that our sport can bring to you in a second, leadership under pressure peels back the layers, revealing our core. In these moments, our true capabilities come to the fore—how well we understand our strengths, our limitations, and our impact on those we lead. Can we navigate the complex dynamics of a team with the same precision and self-knowledge that we apply to our buoyancy and movements in the depths? It's this level of self-awareness that allows us to remain centered, and to make decisions that are not just reactions to external pressures but are informed by a deep understanding of our leadership style, limitations, and the needs of our team. Unlike any 360 Performance review, truly understanding our limits, both mental and emotional, can reveal our leadership potential, just as with freediving. 

Composure Under Pressure

Imagine a time when your team looked to you amid a crisis. Maybe a project was failing, or a critical deal was falling apart. What did you feel? How did you act?

As I recently shared in my personal blog, death is a reality in our sport even as you prepare tenaciously to control all possible variables for each dive. The depths will find ways to remind you of factors that are not in your hands. During these subtle nudges, your attention should be focused on a singular goal: composure. I've discovered that when your mind and body align and stay composed, an acute level of awareness and presence appears. Complexity fades away and your brain clears the unnecessary distractions. Suddenly you are able to perform under pressure – a trait I've come to value in leadership (I explore more in-depth techniques on how to accomplish real composure in my Mental Immune System).

Leadership in these moments of challenge is about finding that still point within yourself that allows you to think clearly, prioritize swiftly, and act decisively. It's the same still point I find when I turn at the bottom of a dive and begin my ascent back, the most dangerous part of a dive.

Patient Leadership

Patience, as the ocean has taught numerous times, isn't merely waiting. It's active, engaged, and alert. It's about understanding the rhythm of the situation and acting in harmony with it. Each dive is a lesson in restraint, where the urge to ascend too quickly must be tempered by the knowledge that doing so can cause harm. Whether negotiating a contract or navigating complex team dynamics, the ability to hold steady, to not rush to judgment or action, is a potent strategy. It's about recognizing that the best response isn't always the quickest but the one that's most considered. 

As the Māori proverb goes, "I orea te tuatara ka patu ki waho" - by being persistent you will succeed. This speaks to the heart of what I would like to call "patient leadership", the understanding that perseverance and a measured approach often lead to the best outcomes.

Guiding with Confidence

Patience and composure are nothing without the confidence to act when the moment is right. During a dive, when I decide it's time to take the last breath and start my descent, there's no hesitation – only the calm certainty that comes from years of training and understanding of my own body. Here's the catch, where confidence originates from will determine how influential as a leader you can be. Being confident must come from a place of trust in your abilities, but not be driven by hubris.

Leadership is no different. Practice will make perfect. Slowly, but surely, allow yourself to fail, while trying again. It's the only method that has worked for me throughout my career.

If you would like to explore or collaborate on creating an experience or retreat for your team that will encourage them to consciously think about their team potential, reach out to us at or apply here: Application for Collaboration

Behind the Image

This dive profile chart is more than a record of depth and time; it's a stark illustration of when my dive took an unforeseen turn, demanding an immediate and practiced response. It shows not just my journey to the depths but also the critical intervention of the safety divers whose preparedness mirrored the composed crisis management expected of leaders in any field. I chose this image for its stark representation of the moment where everything changed — where my personal resolve and the collective training of the rescue team were put to the ultimate test. It's a powerful reminder of the value of preparation, the importance of support systems, and the calm leadership required when facing the unpredictable. This graph doesn't just show the depths to which we can sink; it shows the heights we can reach when we rise to meet the challenges before us.

Key Takeaways

Self-Awareness in Leadership: Just as freediving strips away distractions, leaving you with your authentic self, effective leadership requires a deep understanding of one's strengths, limitations, and impact on others. Self-awareness is key to navigating complex team dynamics and making informed decisions under pressure.

Composure Under Pressure: The ability to remain composed in challenging situations is crucial in both freediving and leadership. This composure allows for clear thinking, swift prioritization, and decisive action, especially in crisis situations.

Patience as a Strategic Tool: Patience in leadership, much like in freediving, is not passive waiting but an active, engaged state. It involves understanding the situation's rhythm and responding in harmony with it. This approach often leads to more considered and effective outcomes.

Confidence Through Experience and Practice: Confidence in leadership should stem from trust in one's abilities, honed through experience and practice. Just as a freediver confidently ascends when the time is right, a leader must act decisively, backed by the confidence gained from experience and self-awareness.

Rebel's Eye Anchor

Rebel's Eye 

Practice makes perfect and also creates a baseline.

Other Chronicles

What A Killer Whale Whispered to Me

Lessons on Leadership Through Nature's Lens

Reading Time

5 Minutes

Redefining Your 100%

Understanding Limits Ignites True Growth

Reading Time

4 Minutes

Unflappable Leadership: Lessons from the Depths

Navigating the Pressures of Leadership with the Poise of a Free diver

Reading Time

5 Minutes

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