• November 2012

Empathy Is a Leader's Most Important Tool

By Andrea Keating
Founder and CEO
Crews Control

“Sooner or later in life, we will all take our own turn being in the position we once had someone else in.” ― Ashly Lorenzana

“My knowledge of myself is direct, synthetic, from within outwards; my knowledge of other persons is indirect, analytical, from outside inwards. My knowledge of myself starts at the core; that of others at the crust.” ― Salvador de Madariaga

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” ― Brené Brown

I love the above quotes as they help confirm that empathy is one of the most important tools leaders have.

All of us have had points in our career that were pivotal and life-shaping, and the empathetic (or non) reaction of a manager or co-worker can profoundly affect our career choices.

We can only understand what motivates, inspires, or concerns someone if we put ourselves in their position. As Salvador de Madariaga says, beware of judging others, since we know them only indirectly, and “from outside inward.”

As a manager, when you take the time to get to know employees well enough to see a situation from their perspective, you have a better chance of helping them craft a solution or plan that they will find appealing—and that will work.

Empathy in the workplace takes many forms.

  • It includes mentoring employees who have remained in the same position for a while and allowing them to stretch their abilities a bit by giving them a part in a project they are passionate about. A much better alternative than having them become bored or frustrated and begin looking for a new position!
  • It includes being supportive when an employee comes to you with news of a project that went wrong. Acknowledge that you understand how difficult it is for them to share the bad news with you—and their part in it. Then work together to find a solution rather than point the finger of blame.
  • By showing empathy as a leader, you model positive behavior for the rest of your employees and give your team a workplace that in which they know they have the support to take necessary risks. Feeling cared about in this way can enable employees to take themselves and your company to the next level.

In the words of Theodore Roosevelt: “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”


Andrea Keating founded the nation’s first film-and-video-crew staffing agency, Crews Control, in 1988. Since then, the company has become a multimillion-dollar international firm that provides video production crews and related services to the corporate media market.

With 250 of the global Fortune 500 companies as clients, and more than 2,000 video crews on its roster, Keating’s focus today is the same as when she launched the business nearly 25 years ago: To match each client with the best local crew for each specific shoot.

A serial entrepreneur with a passion for helping new companies grow and develop, she has helped launch several businesses.

In 2004, Keating co-founded the media-staffing and production-management firm, TeamPeople. The company now supports more than 400 clients in the US and UK. It provides full-time, onsite managed staff, and Day Hire project-based creative and technical crews.

In 2011, she joined the board of directors and became an investor in Scenios, which provides powerful cloud-based software to help manage film and television productions more effectively.

In 2012, she was invited to sit on the board of advisors for the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship in the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is active in its Pitch Dingman program, which helps budding entrepreneurs learn to build a business by practicing and receiving actionable feedback from experts, and learn ways to get funding. Keating is a 1983 graduate of University of Maryland.

For more information, visit www.crewscontrol.com.