Diversity & Inclusion

Women At Gartner

Leah Finds Power in Being Vulnerable, Not Invincible

As we recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Leah Haunz Johnson, Vice President of Research & Advisory, HR Practice, shares about how she’s found strength through vulnerability, as she continues her fight with breast cancer.

October 20, 2020

A couple years ago, I wrote a blog article to recognize the tremendous support from my colleagues at Gartner as I was going through my treatment for Stage 3 breast cancer.  The continuous outreach, genuine concern, offers of assistance, and the dedication to reducing my stress and allowing me to heal – it meant the world to me and still does. 

I thought that battle was over, but it came back bigger and badder this year with a Stage 4 diagnosis. This news came just as the COVID-19 outbreak hit full force, in late March, and I wondered how in the world I would deal with that newest diagnosis and treatment (and work and parenting …).   And what I’m appreciating is that the support I’m getting now isn’t just from my Gartner colleagues, it’s from the Gartner culture. 

I used to think that to be successful, I always needed to be strong, to be in control, to portray a certain invincibility, and to keep personal things behind the curtain.  What I’ve learned is that the Gartner culture allows me to be vulnerable, to admit that I can’t always do it all, and that the “personal” is a big and important part of the person that I bring to work.

There were days  when I wasn’t sure if I could call into an early morning meeting, host a virtual event or lead an upcoming coaching session. My team and my manager trusted me to make the decision to attend or pass as needed, and I genuinely felt it was okay to make either decision.   I wasn’t automatically counted out of anything (which I really, really appreciated), but I had back-ups in place and always had the option to say “no – I can’t do that.”

Now, I’m feeling great most of the time (everyone please knock on wood), but I know I can count on my team to support me when needed.  And, that’s not just because of cancer treatment, side effects or doctors’ appointments – but because the Gartner culture allows people to be vulnerable, to say “no” when they need to, and to bring their whole person (sometimes flawed, sometimes fierce) to work.  

Don’t get me wrong – it’s also a culture of performance, professionalism and growth – but what I’ve found is that it’s also a culture that cares. 

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