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Drew Barrymore: Embracing the “cringe” & Why we need to see Empathy as a leadership skill

Drew Barrymore has been making headlines lately for her unique interviewing style, which some have dubbed "cringy." Memes have been circulating on social media, poking fun at how close she gets to her guests and how she tends to cry during emotional moments.


Instead of getting defensive, Drew embraced the memes and even laughed at herself on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

"At first I was like, 'Oh, is this a good thing? I can't tell," she said. "Then I was like, 'No, this is awesome!' It's so much fun."

Drew owned the memes, even using them as fodder for her show. By embracing the jokes and being authentically herself, Drew highlighted one of her unique strengths that makes her so different and interesting. She said she did not want her interviews to be "like I'm sitting here asking you a question and not revealing anything about myself." Drew said she's "indexed in the complete opposite extreme," hence her super-close and intimate interview style.


"I feel this magnetic pull."

One reason why Drew is such an excellent interviewer is because she listens to her magnetic pull and acts authentically. Drew overflows with empathy and, as a result, has a unique ability to create a safe container for her guests to become vulnerable with her, which makes for great television.

"I love people. I love every human being on the planet. I'm fascinated. Everyone has a story. Every person is exceptional and interesting. It is so fun to literally get to be a conversationalist at work."

However, this type of strength is often considered "unprofessional" and "soft" in places like corporate America. In reality, empathy is a critical skill for success, especially in leadership roles.


According to research on empathy and high performance, empathy is a crucial predictor of achievement. For example, according to a recent study by Catalyst, empathy has significant positive effects: it enhances innovation, it boosts engagement, it improves retention, and it supports work-life balance. Once thought of as just a “soft skill“, empathy is proving to be an important leadership skill that can improve business outcomes.

Women typically exhibit greater levels of empathy, inclusivity and collaboration, which promotes better decision-making and greater levels of worker engagement. Research shows that companies with greater representation of women in top-level roles exhibit increased profitability, enhanced social responsibility, and deliver superior customer experiences characterized by safety and quality, among numerous other advantages. This emphasizes the importance of embracing traditional feminine traits, like empathy, and valuing their contributions in leadership roles.

Chloe Bailey speaks about imposter syndrome to Drew Barrymore as Drew uses her empathy to create a space for Chloe to be vulnerable. Empathy is a leadership skill.
Drew Barrymore sits closely to Chlöe Bailey

Drew Barrymore's response to the memes about her interviewing style is a great example of embracing one's unique strengths and being vulnerable. A stark contrast to our image of male talk show hosts sitting behind the barrier of a desk, Drew’s ability to create an intimate space for her guests is what makes her uniquely great at her job. So the next time you're tempted to suppress your "soft" skills, remember that they may be the key to your success.

If you want to learn 5 ways to work on being more authentic and vulnerable at work, check out The Power of Vulnerability in Leadership.


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