‘8 ways running made me a stronger, better leader’

‘8 ways running made me a stronger, better leader’

Kunal Mehta, GM IT, Raymond Ltd, shares key lessons he’s learnt from running marathons.

It was nine years ago that Kunal Mehta first put on his running shoes and went for a run down Juhu beach in Mumbai. He’d been convinced by a colleague to give it a try. It made such an impact that he decided to sign up for a 21 km marathon. “My family freaked out! They didn’t think I’d see it through,” says Kunal. “But I did and discovered that I’m a natural athlete.” While the health benefits are numerous, running has also helped Kunal become a better leader. Here are his key takeaways.

It helps you avoid burnout
“When you’re running a completely different energy takes over your body. It injects a burst of positivity and leaches away all the toxicity. You achieve a more balanced frame of mind so you are better equipped to handle stress. In turn the energy level around you improves and you’re creating a more positive environment for those in your circle.”

It reduces the clutter
“At the end of the day your mind is filled with clutter from all that has happened. If these thoughts aren’t addressed, they affect your next day as well. I use the time I run to examine these concerns from different angles. The physical and mental distance from triggers helps. You start understanding other people’s point of view. Running has changed my perspective on how to approach daily situations and I’ve been able to build stronger relationships, personally and professionally.”

You learn discipline
“Running is a great way to build rigorous self-discipline. It’s something that needs to be done consistently; you can’t not run for two months and then expect to run long distances again. In running, you are your own competition. This requires focus, the will to finish, discipline and determination. There’s a lot of mental preparation to ensure you follow through. It will become a habit to finish what you start and you will get more out of life.”

Set small goals to get things done
“If you want to run a marathon you can’t start running 21 km from day one. You start small and then keep adding week by week. This way you consolidate your base and build towards your larger goal. Intermediate goals also give an idea of the progress you’ve made. You’re constantly chasing a target and pushing your boundaries. This is great training in how to set goals.”

Deal better with failure
“Last two years I’ve had to skip the Mumbai marathon because of health issues at the very last minute. Imagine putting in all that effort all year long and the morning of the marathon you cannot run. It can’t get worse than that. But you have to acknowledge the fact that there will be setbacks and leave room for failure in your plans. Importantly, don’t let failure overwhelm you. Learning how to effectively deal with failure is an important skill for a leader to have.”

Avoid the competition trap
“There will always be someone running ahead of you. What’s important is that you give yourself over to the task at hand without worrying about competition. Remember, it’s not about competing against runners, but rather the distance. The same applies at work too. Don’t measure yourself against other leaders. Just focus on being the best possible leader you can be.”

Realise the value of building communities
“My success on the track has a lot to do the community I’ve built around me. When I joined Raymond, there were just two to three of us runners, now there are a lot more. It’s a network that provides support, motivation, and advice. At work too, a leader doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You need to invest in building a strong community that provides the kind of support needed, for you and your team.”

Remember, you can’t control everything
“Some conditions and variables are not in a runner’s control. Those times you have to do your part and then let go. Similarly at work too you have to learn when to push ahead and when to step back. Somewhere you need to let go of a situation and also not blame yourself.”