BEMA University
BEMA offers leadership skills programs and other workshops.

ATLANTA — Leadership is the buzzword of the year. Every company is getting in on leadership training, and it’s even popping up in kindergarten classrooms, said Emily Bowers, director, education and professional development for BEMA, who spoke to attendees at the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association’s (B.&.C.M.A.) technical conference, held May 1-4 in Atlanta.

Children today are being taught skills such as being proactive, finding the win-win and synergizing.

Emily Bowers, BEMA
Emily Bowers, director of education and professional development for BEMA

“If we’re starting to train children at such a young age, what will the skills gap look like in 20 years, when those of us currently in the mid-level will be the ‘older’ ones, and these kids are coming up having been trained in a leadership model their whole lives?” Ms. Bowers asked attendees.

Ms. Bowers suggested that the key to leadership in the current climate is emotional courage: the ability to stand apart from others without fear of separatism, as well as the ability to proactively — and respectfully — respond to situations without fear of opposition.

Skills such as emotional courage, she said, are what separate leaders from managers. It’s not enough to assume that someone in a management role is an automatic leader, and identifying some of the key traits is the first step in effective leadership development.

“Management is focused on planning and budgeting, organizing and staffing, corrective action and problem solving,” Ms. Bowers said. “Leadership establishes direction, aligns people, motivates and inspires.”

Mangers appeal to the head, while leaders appeal to the heart.

“If you look at these on two separate levels, it’s very easy to see they don’t need the same development program,” she explained. “That’s a huge miss for a lot of organizations today. Leadership and management are seen as one, and really, they are two.”

When leadership classes, seminars and workshops abound in the results of every Google search, Ms. Bowers suggested that companies find programs that are targeted to their specific staff and needs and first gain buy-in from the organization as a whole. She also suggested that companies bring leadership trainers into their own space, at least for a preliminary assessment, so the trainer may gain a proper understanding of the context and culture in order to properly tailor the program.

“Leaders don’t fail because they don’t know enough about leadership — there’s information everywhere,” Ms. Bowers said. “The key is making it practical.”

For more information on BEMA’s leadership skills program and other workshops, visit