This past weekend, I ended up doing what I really love doing – watch movies. One of the movies that I watched was the 2016 movie “The Fundamentals of Caring” featuring the unassuming Paul Rudd. The movie was based on a book.

As the movie title says, the movie is about someone who takes on the job of a care giver to a young man (played by Craig Roberts). The young man suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He has also followed the same schedule, eat the exact same food for his entire life. The care giver is also a father, who lost his young son to an accident (for which he feels guilty about). The movie is about evolution of their relationship.

What I learnt from the movie:

Rule 1 – Be in Service

The movie starts with a scene where a trainer is teaching the fundamentals of giving care. She mentions the helpful mnemonic device – ALOHA.

ALOHA = Ask; Listen; Observe; Help; Ask again

When expanded, this stands for Ask, Listen, Observe, Help, Ask Again. This is exactly what leaders need to do ask of those they lead.

As leaders we need to ask our followers about how are they and if there is anything that we can help them with. One of the sentences that I lead with when someone reaches out to me is asking “How can I help or support ?”. Then shut up and listen and observe the response. Based on what is being asked of, go ahead and help.

Most times, all the help that they need is for someone to listen to them. Other times, they already know what they need but need a leader to validate. We can do so by asking clarifying questions.

One of the questions that I have found very useful is to ask – “What do you think needs to be done?” or some variant of that. Usually, they know the answer but for some reason are sitting on the fence with their answers. Just our listening and asking these questions pushes them over the fence and that could possibly be the best way we can be of help.

Other times, we might need to dig into our experience and help. Some times, we ourselves might not know or are sure of how to help. In that case, we need to roll up our sleeves and put in the effort to find the answer together and involve anyone else that needs to involve. Once we finish helping them, rinse and repeat.

Rule 2 – Care but not care too much

The next advice given to potential care givers is “Care but not care too much”. This is what spiritual leaders around the world have been advising us for millennia. The biggest cause for stress or anxiety is the fact that we care too much. We try and control everything and everyone around us. We feel hurt and angry when someone doesn’t follow our advice or lead.

Rule 3 – Self care before caring for others

The third advice that is given to potential care giver is to take care of themselves before they can care for others. This is true for all leaders as well. Unless we take care of ourselves, it is very difficult to support anyone else. So, it is critical for us as leaders to take care of ourselves first.

Taking care of ourselves means we take care of ourselves in 5 domains – Physical, Emotional, Financial, Intellectual , Social and Spiritual health.

Physical health means that we eat right, stay hydrated, exercise and take care of our body.

Emotional health means that we are able to deal with our emotions without suppressing them. Journalling can help.

Financial health is critical, as this ensures that we are not operating from a foundation of fear or jealousy.

Intellectual health is all about continuing to learn and stay updated with the current trends and new subjects. This helps us to connect disparate things and come up with unique solutions. Using online platforms like Coursera to learn new topics could help. Getting mentored, coached or follow someone you admire could help.

Social health is all about having friends inside and outside of our work. This is also about building a network across the organization and in the industry that we work in. Volunteering for social causes that we believe in or attending industry conferences could help here.

Spiritual health is all about being & staying grounded. This doesn’t mean that we need to be religious, just need to be spiritual. This can be achieved by practicing meditation or mindfulness. If this seems too much, simply using our breath to ground ourselves in reality would help as well.

Rule 4 – Exploration is Good!

A pivotal point in the movie is when the care giver convinces his ward to go on a road trip to visit and experience life as everyone else experience it. This means leaving the comfort of the known (home) and moving into the unknown (road trip, hotels, food, medicine, etc).

Leading, by definition is about moving from the world of the known to the world of the unknown. So, not only do we need to be comfortable being in the world of unknown but we should be able to provide enough comfort for people we lead about moving towards the unknown. Each one of us can develop our own way of how we make this shift comfortable and smooth for those we lead.

Rule 5 – Failure is expected

During the road trip, the young man, decides that he wants to go meet his dad, who had left him and his mom, when he was three and was diagnosed with the DMD. He had received multiple letters from his father and wanted to give reply to those letters in person.

However, when he meets with his father, he realises that his father had never written any letters to him. It was his mom who wrote those letters. To make matters worse, he offers his son a 160$ in cash, just because his son is standing in his office.

The lesson I take from this scene is that sometimes bad things happen to good people. This is to be expected. When this happens to us, we just say to ourselves that “This too shall pass” and move on. It is also helpful to remember rule 3 (care but not too much).

In conclusion:

In conclusion, I liked the movie. You may or may not like it. However, as leaders, I do think that we would do well by remembering the 5 rules of leadership that I’ve deduced from the movie. If you happen to have some time at hand and are in the mood for watching a movie, you can catch this movie on Netflix, streaming on a screen near you.