Neurodiversity: We need to talk

Neurodiversity: We need to talk

You may not realise it, but a fifth of people live with a neurodevelopmental condition like ADHD. As Marshall Motors CEO Daksh Gupta has found, that doesn’t have to be a barrier to following your dream – or hiring the industry’s next rising star

Daksh Gupta is Group Chief Executive of Marshall Motor Holdings, one of the UK’s largest dealer groups. The business has excelled under his stewardship; underlying revenues have grown from £300m to £3.4bn, with annual operating profits growing by £60m over the 13 years he’s been at the helm.

But what you may not know about Gupta is that he has been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He didn’t find out about it until later in life, which just goes to show that while many people know very little about this neurodevelopmental condition, those living with it can lead incredibly successful lives.

Finding out

“I didn’t know I had ADHD until my wife said it,” Gupta explains. “She’s an osteopath, so she’s very medically minded, and she knew immediately. She said that it’s because she knows that I do two or three things at once in my head, which is one of the characteristics of ADHD. I can be sat watching TV, reading a book, and be in a conversation. The person I’m talking to might think I’m ignoring them, but I can listen to every single word and fully take it on board. It can be useful if you’ve got it, but it can also be incredibly frustrating for the other person!”

And as we chat, Gupta openly admits that his focus is also on another task – not that I had picked up on it – which must be useful for someone whose daily schedule is full to the brim with meetings.

Gupta has only had the ADHD label for 15 years, but once he had the diagnosis he was keen to find out more. “I actually went to Harley Street and saw one of the leading doctors on the topic, just so I could understand it,” he says. “For me, I think it’s actually a strength, because I have the ability to do two or three things at once. I know people joke that guys can’t multitask, but actually I find that I can.”

For every benefit, there are downsides though, and for Gupta it’s the fact that his brain is constantly on the go. “I don’t sleep a huge amount – that’s the thing – because my brain is constantly going,” he says.

Spreading the word

In the UK, 20% of the population live with some form of neurodevelopmental condition, whether that’s ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia or Tourette’s syndrome. Awareness around ADHD and these other conditions is often lacking, but Gupta is keen to add his voice to help encourage others who live with the condition and to make more people aware of what it is and the implications.

“There’s a huge lack of understanding, and I include myself in that. I didn’t know I had ADHD until 15-odd years ago, so I’m quite comfortable talking about it. I’m in a privileged position where I can try and drive positive change and make a difference in people’s lives.

“I take my responsibilities as a leader seriously, not just in my business but also in the wider industry, to try and bring about positive change. That’s what I think you should be doing as a leader. So that’s one of the reasons why I feel pretty comfortable talking about it,” says Gupta.

And the more ADHD is discussed, the more people will feel able to talk openly about it, and the more likely they’ll be to persevere or take a chance. And that’s got to be good for the industry.

The IMI Diversity Task Force report looks at how automotive can change to become more inclusive, including helping those with physical and non-visible disabilities.

To get a sense of the whole picture and to read the complete range of recommendations head to: Diversity Task Force

This is an edited extract from IMI's new MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership.