Emerging Leaders Initiative, Part 2



How can you tell that lives and workplaces are being transformed?

“I’ve been able to intersect my work and faith with clarity on how to approach my career in a different way than I ever thought possible.”

“I realized there was a gap in my life, both professionally and spiritually. Every other group that I’ve been involved in doesn’t take into account where I spend most of my time – and that’s in the workplace.  … (This) has filled that gap for me.”

“I’ve pressed into challenges I would have previously found excuses to walk away from, lived out my faith in a conflicting environment, and have gained new perspective on what it means to use my God-given strengths in work.”

“For me, the biggest difference is the intentionality behind applying and really having an active faith in the work that we do.”

Each of those testimonies could have come from a Pinnacle Forum Partner or participant. But each one came from a man or woman involved in the Emerging Leaders Initiative, an innovative project launched several years ago by Pinnacle Forum’s Chicago Metro Area Chapter. (See prior articles).

While Pinnacle Forum and the Emerging Leaders Initiative share a common goal – transformed lives, transformed workplaces, transformed culture – their strategic approaches are quite different.

In Pinnacle Forum, that transformation happens as influential leaders from across the Seven Mountains of Culture meet in small, on-going, confidential, peer-to-peer Forums where they are encouraged and equipped to engage and execute on their God-given callings.

The Emerging Leaders Initiative, on the other hand, is described as a 24-week mentor-guided process specifically designed to engage, equip and empower younger leaders to better understand their God-given purposes in order to transform the areas of work to which they’ve been called.

In ELI, the mentors are established, experienced leaders, while the mentees are younger men and women who early on have shown leadership qualities.  But both share a common passion and commitment to growing their influence and investing in others as Christ-centered leaders.

Together, the mentors and mentees examine 12 distinct practices of Jesus in a systematic approach that incorporates scripture, discussion, and practical application. Along the way, mentors provide mentees with clear models of Christ-centered leadership in the workplace supported by their own real life experiences.  And the mentees meet bi-weekly for peer-to-peer accountability.

“What has been attractive to both mentees and mentors alike are the stories and examples of transformed lives, both of the participants as well as those they have been able to impact through this equipping process,” explains Michael Sugihara, a onetime mentee who now serves as ELI’s executive director.  “We strive to humbly allow God to do His work of transformation, share those stories, and then give Him glory in all things.”

That mentees and mentors alike grow through the process is clear from comments they share.

“When I first heard of ELI, I wasn’t sure what it meant,” admits mentee Kristina Bell, an associate global brand manager in the hospitality industry. “You hear of a lot of leadership programs, and they’re all over the board.”

What changed her mind?  “I understood that it was something that overlaid leadership with faith … that’s what sparked my interest,” she shares on a video on the website.

“I was always wondering, ‘What is my purpose and how can I serve God?'” she explains. “Through ELI I realized that I might not know my purpose quite yet, but I have learned what it’s like to model Jesus and be a leader through the lens of Christianity.  In addition I learned that I can bring my purpose with me wherever I’m at each and every day … that I can make a difference wherever God has placed me.”

Fellow mentee Damien Howard, a high school teacher, says ELI has “further solidified my purpose” and has provided him with encouragement, support and accountability as he seeks to, in his words, “live into my purpose.”

“Every week when I come to the table, not only are my fellow brothers there but my mentor,” he explains in a video. “Having people who are willing to raise their hand and say, ‘Brother, not only do we affirm the work that you are doing, not only do we affirm a sense that God’s hand is on you… we’re also saying that with whatever we have within our capacity, within our hands … we’re willing to help’  — (having that) is powerful.”

Those and other mentees’ comments are echoed by the men and women who mentor them.

“The driving force for me was really the recognition that there had to be more than just going to work and getting a paycheck,”  ELI co-founder Mark Chassman explains in a video on the organization’s website. “ELI introduced me to some like-hearted and like-mind people who also have this eternal perspective – who wanted to take that and do something greater.  Everybody’s involved in it – the mentors and mentees are in the learning experience together – and that’s what makes it unique.”

“It’s not just Sunday only, it’s about every single day, and that’s what ELI has really helped me understand,” says fellow mentor Jeffrey Olin, vice president for Global Tax at CDK Global in Chicago.

“What really stands out is that this is not just a Bible study … in fact, it’s not a Bible study. This is a mentor-mentee relationship – it’s about coming together and building a network.  It’s such a powerful experience.”

“How is faith lived out – what does it look like on a daily basis?” adds mentor Renee Hale, co-founder of Wellspirit Consulting Group. “We’re talking about our faith, based on scripture, and how our faith is really like a thread woven in the tapestry of our lives.”

Since it was started in 2013-14, nearly 80 emerging leaders have gone through the program, and 40 have applied for the next session.  With that kind of impact, Clif Fenton, who with Chassman co-founded ELI, thinks the mentor-mentee model could work well in other PinnacleForum communities.

“While all cities are different, the key is to assemble a group of entrepreneurial partners with a diversity of talents who get the importance of creating cultural transformation by reaching the next generation of influencers.  It will require money, time, and a team which works well together,” he says. “Mentoring is a natural way to fulfill the Pinnacle Forum goal of using its personally transformed members to produce cultural transformation by reaching the influencers of the future.”

And, he sees Pinnacle Forum as “a natural next step as our millennials take on more senior and influential roles in their professions.”

Sugihara agrees, and offers some advice to Pinnacle Forum Chapters on reaching younger leaders:

“I’m sure this is not at all new, but this is what I ask myself every day: ‘How is God transforming me today? What is He saying?’ Not unlike others, I’ve found that I and my peers are continually drawn to authenticity.  I know that if I am to be about any sort of change in others, God needs to be doing a real work in me first. The work I am doing is only His when I put Him first, rest and listen.

“As God continues to do His amazing work of transformation in and through the lives ofPinnacle Forum Chapters, I believe this will be impactful for younger men and women. It is then about sharing these real stories of change in ways that connect with whoever the audience may be and giving God the glory – (that is) such a sweet experience and opportunity.”

For more information, visit ELI’s website at www. emergingleadersinitiative.orgor contact Executive Director Michael Sugihara at michael@emergingleadersinitiative.org. Sugihara, co-founders Clif Fenton and Mark Chassman, and others will be at Pinnacle Forum’s upcoming national conference.


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