Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

Now I feel a sense of energy and stamina

Running also brings in a sense of positivity and builds a certain level of resilience to help me navigate the ups and downs in life

A team challenge to walk the talk at a health insurance company inspired Bhargav Dasgupta to take up running in 2011. As the managing director and CEO of ICICI Lombard, Dasgupta’s role in promoting wellness and inspiring the team cannot be undermined. He has so far run nine half marathons and a marathon (Berlin 2017). In an email interview, Dasgupta talks about how running helps him remain goal-oriented and be disciplined in every aspect of life. Edited excerpts:

Any leadership lessons from distance running?

As an individual, I realized that setting a big goal and announcing it publicly helps me in achieving it. Secondly, it teaches you to break down a big goal into digestible bits. Running also helps to maintain control—you learn that running too fast too early leads to burnout. It builds discipline and resilience in you. Last but not least, it makes you introspect, and, in the process, get to know yourself better.

How do you balance training and work?

Actually, I don’t treat them differently. It’s all in the mind. Whenever I travel, I ensure that I carry my running shoes. During our IPO road shows in 2017, we were staying close to the Central Park in New York and I had always been keen to run there. After day-long meetings, we folded up at 10.30pm and had a breakfast meeting at 7.30am the next day. However, I made it a point to wake up at 5.30am and fit in 1 hour in the morning for a road run.

Did you ever hit a wall? How did you get over it?

My first real challenge while running was, in fact, my first attempt at the Mumbai half marathon in January 2012. During practice, I suffered a hairline fracture and had a cast on my leg in October 2011. My doctor advised me to avoid running for some months after the cast had been removed. However, by December I felt well recovered and decided to run as I had committed to my team. During the marathon, things were going fine till around 15km, when I started experiencing cramps. However, I decided to continue running, and eventually managed to go the distance. The fact that I broke down the target into smaller milestones and kept pushing myself to achieve them one by one was the reason I could complete the run.

What impact does leading by example as a fit leader have?

As the adage goes, practise before you preach. I strongly believe in this when it comes to leading by example. We are a health insurance company and strive to partner with our customers for their health and fitness. When we take the lead in implementing ourselves what we say, that’s when our credibility will be high.

How does running influence your performance at work?

Running helps me with my general fitness levels. I feel a sense of energy and stamina through the day that lets me work long and hard. Running also brings in a sense of positivity and builds a certain level of resilience to help me navigate the ups and downs in life.

Discipline in a runner’s life is paramount. Do you think this discipline also reflects in your leadership style?

One of the critical factors behind running a successful marathon is being disciplined, and this extends to all aspects of my life, be it an individual or as a professional.

Your toughest race.

I think my first race was in fact my toughest. It was not just the pain during the run after the 15km mark but the fact that I was running a marathon for the first time in my life, that too without adequate training. As I look back, I feel really satisfied that I could complete the race in those circumstances.

Running With The Boss is a series in which CEOs, MDs and senior executives talk about the importance of a fit team and striking a work-life balance through running.

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