The New Face of Leadership

Click here to see John's video message to donors.


He likes to send handwritten notes of appreciation to employees. He blogs. He understands that Twitter has nothing to do with birds and everything to do with reaching new audiences. And his iPhone is always close at hand, an indispensable tool.

John Kristel, Good Shepherd’s new president and CEO, is all about engaging people in ways both new and traditional, foreshadowing a style that in the few weeks since his arrival in May, already has impressed many as warm, personable, mission-driven, and results-oriented.

He enters a room like a man comfortable in his own skin, quickly putting others at ease as he extends his hand in greeting, his face lighting up with a broad smile that makes him eminently approachable. He comes across as the kind of guy who can easily take charge of a senior leadership meeting and just as easily chat with an associate in the hallway about last night’s Phillies game.

At 39, John is the fifth leader in Good Shepherd’s 105-year history. He succeeds Sally Gammon who retires in July after 16 years leading the organization through a period of ambitious growth highlighted by new partnerships and an expanded south Allentown campus that literally changed the landscape.

John’s first weeks were a whirlwind of activity. One of the first things he did was attend the annual Raker residents’ ball in April, signaling a commitment to all those who call Good Shepherd their home and to many who believe they are the organization’s heart and soul. In the days that followed prior to officially taking over on June 1, John began visiting Good Shepherd inpatient and outpatient facilities as well as Good Shepherd Penn Partners in Philadelphia. His calendar is rapidly filling up but this devoted father of three is determined to make time for his kids’ Little League games while staying connected with the ground troops throughout the organization. 

In a wide-ranging interview, John made it abundantly clear that he is excited about coming to Good Shepherd and up for the challenge of striking the balance between mission support while ensuring fiscal strength and integrity to donors and other stakeholders.

How would you define your leadership style?

I’m definitely a fan of having a dashboard, key metrics. Metrics are important to re-evaluate whether what you’re doing is effective. And I really do believe in hiring, or in my case, surrounding myself with a good team. To be a leader, you really have to have great people working with you to be effective…I believe in giving them space, breathing room to do their job. I don’t necessarily like to show up with all the solutions. People work best when they use their own creativity and problem-solving (abilities).

I’ve always believed the best marketing an organization can do is when its own people sing its praises loud and clear. I’m proud to join an organization where we take such good care of our associates that they become ambassadors…Employee engagement is what leads to patient satisfaction and good outcomes…What do we have to do to get everybody’s light bulbs turned on? People get frustrated if things aren’t working. So that's why I’m committed to scheduling time to go out and talk to our associates.

What are your greatest strengths?

I’m a good listener. I think folks will tell you that. I elicit feedback on ways I can deliver my message clearer. I like to get feedback. I’m not a micro-manager. I believe in giving people autonomy and letting them do their jobs, get out of the way, give them the latitude they need to get their job done.

Where do you need to grow?

I don’t have extensive experience in fund raising. I’ll be working and partnering with David Lyons (vice president, Development) on that. And public speaking. I think things can always be improved. Styles change over time. My skills can always be honed, worked on and improved.

Who has been the greatest influence in your life?

In 1979, I had the opportunity to see Pope John Paul say Mass in Philadelphia. It was something I’ll never forget…Quint Studer has been a major influence. I’ve read his books, heard him speak, gone to his seminars. His message resounds with me. He has such a strong organizational focus. He doesn’t just talk about leadership principles, he explains why each element of what those principles do is important.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Something I’ve heard frequently: It’s all about relationships. The relationships we have with colleagues, patients, residents and community members are all important. It’s imperative for everyone, from our partners to our competitors, to have a positive experience with Good Shepherd. We have a good vibe. We’re experts at what we do. It’s important to remember that our paychecks are made possible by people -- the people who use our services and the people who make referrals.

Do you plan to get involved as a volunteer in the community?

In the past, I’ve served on several volunteer boards, like the Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA and of course that extends to (helping out at) events. I’ve also been a Rotary member. I’m looking forward to meeting the greater Lehigh Valley community and learning about volunteer opportunities. There may be a different call for me here. It will be nice to find out where the needs are.

Why did you choose this field?

I waited on tables in a nursing community. I was 16 years old. It was great. What I really liked was getting to know the residents and their stories. They were really fun. They were so nice… I also was interested in sports medicine. I was active as an athlete. And I’m a people person.

If you hadn’t chosen health care, what profession do you think you might have pursued?

I could see myself getting into financial planning. I do have a natural knack for numbers. It seems to come to me easily. But I would want to work with people, not just be a spread-sheet cruncher.

Is philanthropy a part of your life?

My wife and I give to the United Way, Relay for Life, the YMCA, and our church.

Are you a person of faith and if so, does your faith guide you in your professional life?

I am a Catholic, and my faith guides me in work and everyday life. It has to. It helps ground me. I tend to be a little bit of a worrywart. I once heard a homily. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you can solve all your problems. Sometimes you have to hand your problems over to God. The problems you face as an individual and an organization would be hard for me to process without faith.

What do you think is the greatest responsibility to our donors?

Keeping the commitment to our mission and our commitment to them. We have to remain dedicated to the mission but in a fiscally responsible way that assures our donors that we are good and faithful stewards of their gifts.

The CV

Career Track:

CEO, Carlisle Regional Medical Center

CEO, Berwick Hospital Center

Associate CEO, Pottstown Memorial Medical Center

Tenet Health System

Higher Education:

MBA: Temple University Fox School of Business, Philadelphia Master’s: Physical therapy from Drexel University, Philadelphia

Bachelor’s: Temple University


The Back Story

Family:  Wife Monet, children Max (11), Alex (8) and Anna (4).

What were your first jobs? Paper boy. I’ve been a dishwasher. I’ve waited tables.

Favorite movie: “Raiders of the Lost Ark”

One piece of technology you can’t live without: My iPhone. I love that it works off a cell signal. I almost don’t need a laptop. It’s an incredible innovation that makes me more efficient.

Any pets? We have a hamster (Teddy) and a hermit crab (Hermie).

Who do you admire? Steve Jobs. He was one of those rare people who didn’t need market research to pick a product and know it would hit. He was successful in running two huge companies, Apple and DreamWorks, and he wasn’t afraid to steal ideas.

Favorite book? “John Adams” by David McCullough. I remember reading about when Adams traveled from Boston to Philadelphia, he had a to-do list and the goal was to create a country: establish a currency, form a militia.

What’s on your bucket list? I’ve never traveled to Europe. Just haven’t had a chance with the kids. I like downhill skiing. I’d like to ski in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming.

Any hidden talents or special hobbies? I like tennis.

I played baseball and basketball in high school, volleyball in college. We (the kids) play wiffle ball in our backyard. We can usually play for an hour before a fight breaks out.

If you had an extra hour in the day, how would you spend it? With my kids.


Read John’s blog,

“Why Good Shepherd? Why Now?” at:

Follow John on Twitter @GoodShepherdCEO