5 Characteristics of Globally Resilient Leaders: Nimble Ease

Jul 25, 2023. By Lori Brewer Collins

Heartland - Horse in Pasture Soft Light by Jake Brewer

In previous articles in this series, we have looked at relentless curiosity, pragmatic fearlessness and suspended judgment. All three characteristics help leaders get their bearings when they move into another culture or region of the world. “Nimble ease” is what helps them navigate the complexity and uncertainty they encounter with some degree of equanimity.

Think of nimble ease as a mashup of flexibility and grace. Those who demonstrate it are truly comfortable with change. They embrace what’s knowable, as well as the ambiguity of what’s not knowable. They are able to see and acknowledge the truth that can lie in the midst of polar opposites. As they adapt to new situations, they remain authentically who they are, while remaining open to others who are very different.

Leaders who have developed this characteristic to a high level work with both logic and emotions. They exhibit emotional stability and Zen-like patience. In chaos, they find clarity. Since they consider complex situations from different perspectives, they can be especially creative when it comes to generating solutions or approaches to a given challenge.

What Nimble Ease Looks Like

Min moves from one complex situation to another with finesse. People remark on her ability to calmly accept whatever is happening—and to effectively lead them through it.

When she began her career, she thought that accepting reality as it is, with all its conflicts and contradictions, its advances and retreats, would just lead to overwhelm. Instead, acceptance helped her find the simplicity on the other side of complexity.

As a South Korean diplomat currently on assignment in America, Min’s reputation for building connections where none existed before precedes her. She is flexible and resourceful as she moves from one meeting, one complex situation, to another. In the face of conflict, she remains centered and calm. Always the diplomat, she holds paradox and polarities. It’s not that she is overly accommodating. In fact, she stays true to herself while she assesses what’s really needed in tense consular meetings.

The equanimity and relaxed strength she exudes act as a magnetic force, especially when unpredictable things happen. When feathers get ruffled and people feel disrespected, her talent for gracefully handling miscues and misinterpretations builds trust and rebuilds damaged relationships.

7 Ways to Cultivate Ease

If you are one of the people who does not always find it easy to keep your cool when things are out of your control, take heart. The following practices can help you nurture a sense of ease and, potentially, some modicum of equanimity.

  1. Cultivate personal practices that grow your capacity to remain centered in times of stress, such as meditation, mindfulness training, breathing exercises, yoga or tai chi.
  2. Practice becoming aware of your emotions in ambiguous, stressful or highly charged situations. Observe your feelings as they arise. Take note of your emotional “triggers”. Develop the capacity to remain composed: experience each emotion as it comes up, accept it, but don’t let it hijack your mind.
  3. When you find yourself in a tense situation, implement one of your centering practices (like take a deep breath) and step back—mentally—from what’s going on. See yourself as if you are an actor on stage. Notice how you are experiencing and responding to what’s happening.
  4. Deliberately put yourself into a situation where you do not have control (that is, you are not the person in power and must rely on those around you). Rather than try to manipulate people and events, use your personal power to influence what’s happening.
  5. Record yourself on video interacting with people you don’t know. Watch it to recognize how others perceive you and to discover how you impact them.
  6. Develop a practice of observing trends in society and business. This can help you “see around corners” and be better prepared to gracefully move with whatever happens.
  7. Slow down and take the time to reflect on significant decisions. Think through the possible consequences, whether they’re likely or unlikely, and their potential impact on various individuals, organizational systems and cultural norms.


Photo credit: Jake Brewer, “Heartland – Horse in Pasture Soft Light”.

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