Tim Flanagan

Transitions can be challenging, but they also present opportunities for positive outcomes. The same is true when a leader of an organization “passes the baton” to his or her successor.

Timing is important with these transitions, and Tim Flanagan, founder of Catholic Leadership Institute and chair of CLI’s board of directors, initiated the departure from his chairman role two years ago. Wayne-based CLI provides leadership training programs for bishops, priests and lay persons in the Catholic community throughout the United States.

Mike Emmi

In addition to being a successful financial services professional and business owner, Flanagan also helped set up Family Business Centers at universities in the Philadelphia area. One of the key things he learned in business is the importance of creating a succession plan.

“As a leader, particularly in the family business field, you’re not really doing your job unless you’ve found a successor and that you position your organization so that it can go on beyond you,” said Flanagan, who has served as CLI board chair for 14 years. “Some founders never know when it’s time to leave. That doesn’t open up creativity and change and vibrancy that a growing organization really needs.”


Given the continued growth of CLI and his desire for a smooth transition in leadership, Flanagan informed the board in February 2012 that he felt it was time to expand the senior leadership of CLI and begin the planning process for selecting a new board chair.

The CLI board consulted with BoardSource, an organization that specializes in governance of non-profit boards. The nominating committee created a list of potential candidates and eventually selected Mike Emmi, who has served on the CLI board for 12 years.

Emmi, a longtime member of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Strafford, is a former chairman and CEO of IPR International and Systems and Computer Technology Corp., and he also worked as a senior vice president for General Electric.

“Mike brings the gift of strategic thinking and is a visionary who is challenging in a positive sense, moving the organization forward,” said Flanagan, who will maintain a lifetime membership on the board. “He has all the skill sets, the drive and the experience to help us continue to grow and serve the church.”

Emmi called the opportunity to serve as CLI board chair “humbling.”

“It’s an awesome responsibility we have to the church,” he noted. “I really want to make certain that what we do is correct and good and healthy for the church.”

He is looking forward to building alliances with other organizations within the Catholic Church. “I think it’s important that ministries throughout the Church begin to come together and be a little less parochial when helping one another,” Emmi said. “We ought to have tighter relationships in every way we can.”

Emmi was attracted to the mission of CLI because he recognized the importance of clergy having the leadership training they need to be effective shepherds in the church.

“Enabling the church to grow and prosper and doing the things that Christ wants us to do – that calls for an awful lot of leadership,” he said. “While priests are formed in theology and philosophy, they’re not grounded in the modern techniques and capabilities that you can bring through leadership. I think that’s a really important thing to do for the church.”

One CLI program currently in development that Emmi is excited about is the Parish Disciple Maker Index, a resource that will help pastors assess the level of engagement of his parishioners and also help parishioners to deepen their faith.

“If this Disciple Maker program turns out as good as we think it might, this could turn into one of the most important programs within the entire church,” he said. “We want to make certain it is done correctly and yields the positive results we think are possible.”

Emmi is also looking forward to helping bishops with the issues they face in society today. “It’s real exciting what can be done to help them in their ministries and building their skills,” he said. “It’s pretty easy to get enthused about that.”


Elena Perri is a freelance writer in Havertown.