Episode #52 – Value Based Leadership with Dr. Jeff Thompson

We’re now in the last month of this year.  It’s the holiday season and the New Year is almost upon us.  It’s the time of year when most of us pause to evaluate the past 12 months, to reflect on our accomplishments, and to ponder our hopes and expectations for the future.  It’s a wonderful moment to reconsider our values and priorities, and to set new goals for the future.  It’s also a perfect time for a podcast on value-based leadership.

There may be no single issue that will have more of an impact on the immediate future of healthcare than leadership.  Many previous guests interviewed on this podcast series have talked about a lack of forward-thinking, visionary leadership in healthcare.  To this end, our guest this week will help us understand what value-based leadership looks like, and what behaviors are required from our leaders in order to transform healthcare.  

In this interview we have the wonderful opportunity to hear from Jeff Thompson, a physician executive who was CEO of Gundersen Health.  Jeff served as Gundersen’s Executive Vice President from 1995 to 2001, and CEO from 2001 to 2014.  During his tenure, he played a key role in the organization’s governance design, culture development and community focus.  Gundersen is an integrated delivery system serving 19 counties in western Wisconsin.  It has been designated as a Healthgrades Top 50 hospital system.  Jeff continues to serve as Gundersen’s Executive Advisor & CEO Emeritus.

Jeff is also the author of a recently published book, Lead True.  He has been featured in and authored numerous articles, book chapters and abstracts on healthcare, leadership and sustainability.  Over the past couple of years, he has been lecturing across the globe, advancing this notion of value-based leadership. Jeff is an experienced executive leader who has walked the walk.  His personal stories and hard-earned wisdom are directed to leaders at all levels.

What you’ll hear in this interview includes:

  • What the current moment in healthcare history is ‘demanding’ of our leaders and the specific challenges facing leadership in these tumultuous times.
  • Three specific steps that leaders can take to address the current challenges in healthcare.
  • A number of real-life stories of how leaders can encourage their providers and staff to embody their organization’s espoused values, and how leaders can create greater provider and staff engagement.
  • Jeff’s keystone piece of advice that he offers all current and rising leaders.


In tumultuous times, value-based leadership can easily become subservient to immediate, short-term goals.  It’s understandable.  But, Jeff encourages leaders to avoid being deterred by problems that do not add value.  Instead, he urges leaders to focus on steering their teams and organizations toward longer-range solutions that benefit patients and communities.

Jeff’s message is one of identifying and voicing shared core values, and then living those values.  It’s an inspiring message of authenticity, courage and discipline.

There is one hope I have for the New Year – that individuals and teams in roles of authority and leadership hear and heed this message.

I would encourage you to share this message with colleagues.

Zeev Neuwirth MD