Leadership Faculty

BrianRev. Brian Beckstrom
Campus Pastor, Adjunct Instructor

The core conviction that guides my teaching can be summed up in the words of Vince Lombardi…“Leaders are made, not born”.  I am passionate about challenging students to discover the leader within and nurturing their growth. As a Pastor I’ve been deeply influenced by the leadership of Jesus who spent three years forming twelve leaders to carry on his ministry. Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi who taught his disciples by using an action reflection model. He would model leadership for his disciples and then encourage them to go out and try it out on their own.

When his students returned Jesus helped them reflect on their successes and failures, usually by asking them questions. Jesus rarely gave answers to his disciples because he knew that leadership isn’t simply about having the right information. It is about developing the capacity to manage yourself, see the systems at work, and mobilize action. You don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate the type of leadership Jesus modeled. These same principles can be found in contemporary leadership theory, particularly in the work of Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky, Margaret Wheatley, and Peter Senge.

LangAshley Lang
Director of Campus Programming & Assistant Director of the Institute for Leadership Education

I believe that we must have a clear understanding of our personal identity - who we are, what we value and why we do what we do before we can expect to lead others. Understanding ourselves is only one piece of the leadership journey. We then need to understand what role we play in leadership and followership. We need to challenge and nurture our peers, while pushing to be our best version of self.

I believe in offering a balance of challenge and support in developing the holistic student. It’s important that this development occurs through the curricular and co-curricular lens. Leaders have a choice in who they are and who they can be. This is discovered through personal reflection, moving out of their comfort zone and taking risks. Leadership is about discovering purpose and moving that into action. It’s important to develop the passion and confidence necessary in order to create a vision and then be willing to act. Understanding yourself gives insight into how one can best interact with others, as well as what to expect when working with others – why people act the way they do.

Leadership as defined by the Institute for Leadership Education is, “Taking responsibility for our communities, and making them better through public action.” By being aware of how we lead and why, there is a better understanding of how one can best impact their community and make a difference in the lives of others.

KittleDr. Dan Kittle
Director, Center for Community Engagement

I believe that leadership should be informed and intentionally integrated with personal identity development and in response to social challenges and opportunities.  How do we know what we know?  Why do we believe what we believe?  How have we come to understand leadership?  These are questions we must address first in order to practice leadership holistically and with integrity. 

Then, through analyzing models, critical reading, and personal reflections we can examine leadership theories.  How have others thought about leadership?  What are the best practices of leadership?  Informed by these leadership theories and practices, I believe we must ask our students to explore, identify, and critically examine the challenges and opportunities that they find in today’s communities.  In other words, how can students understand and impact aspects of our society that are in need of transformation?  And, how can they do this in a way that is informed by their personal identity development and vocational discernment?  This is where a service-learning pedagogy challenges and stretches students to engage and reflect on these issues in communities that are often new to them. 

Overall, the study of leadership is dynamic because it is rooted in self and informed by multiple disciplines.  Like the mission of Wartburg, it is in an invitation for students to reflect on the relationship between education, socialization, liberation, and personal development. 

Bill SoesbeDr. Bill Soesbe
Director of the High School Leadership Institute and Assistant Professor of Education

“Taking responsibility for our communities, and making them better through public action” is the definition of leadership within the Leadership Institute and although I have always lived my life with this emphasis it was not until I came to Wartburg that I really understood what it truly meant.  I believe that all can be leaders and each one of us has something to offer our communities.  It is one of our responsibilities as citizens. 

We should not lead in isolation and through collaboration great things happen.  I have had numerous opportunities to be a part of great experiences which have made differences in my life and within my communities.  My experiences as a coach, teacher, and administer have reinforced the idea that there is not a prescribed program or one way to become leader or a better leader; instead it is an individual journey.

I primarily work with ID 315 classes as part of the Community Builders programs.  My role at the college and within the Leadership Institute is to aid students in their personal journey of identifying strengths and maximizing potential while at the same time making a positive difference in the lives of those around them.  I help students discover themselves and along the way challenge them to leave their comfort zone and take risks.  This is an on-going rewarding journey of self discovery, claiming your calling, and making the world a better place.

Bill SoesbeKristin Teig Torres
Assistant Director, Center for Community Engagement

Leadership grows from a deep point within - treating others with respect. Taking students from an introspective look at their strengths, personality traits, and values to foster a leader who will adapt to any given situation is the grassroots of leadership development. Learning about leadership styles utilizing in-depth study of those who have already shown the world their capabilities or inabilities to lead will give students a rich knowledge base of what active citizenship entails. Taking time to personally reflect on their own lives, students will begin to see their own leadership styles emerge. I believe everyone has the ability to be a leader, show respect, empathy, and truly make a positive difference in our world.

WaldsteinDr. Fred Waldstein
Irving R. Burling Chair in Leadership, Director of the Institute for Leadership Education, and Professor of Political Science

The authenticity and utility of leadership and leadership education depend upon their congruence with the mission of the group, organization or institution in which they are practiced.  At Wartburg that means congruence with the mission statement, “challenging and nurturing students for lives of leadership and service as a spirited expression of their faith and learning.”  This has led to a definition of leadership that compliments the mission of the college and to curricular and co-curricular programs which identify components of leadership that any Wartburg College graduate, regardless of discipline, can find useful in their professional and vocational lives.  The working definition of leadership used by the Institute for Leadership Education is, “Taking responsibility for our communities, and making them better through public action.”  Implicit in this civic engagement approach to leadership is the belief that all Wartburg students have the potential to contribute positively to their communities, and it is the responsibility of the College to give them the encouragement, tools, and opportunities to do so.  The primary pedagogical orientations I use are service-learning, peer learning, and case-in-point learning as means to develop the skills of critical inquiry fundamental to reflective leadership which compliments the Wartburg mission.

WithersDr. Bill Withers
Assistant Director of the Institute for Leadership Education and Professor of Communication Arts

I approach leadership studies from the perspective that those who wish to not only understand and learn, but also evolve into more effective leaders, must understand 'the journey.'  We talk about leader-lives as a series of processing events, over time, and how we respond and grow from those.  One will never fully understand or grow through those experiences unless the individual understands what I call their "Leader DNA," how they're "wired" and what their strengths are.  So, I ask each student to begin by identifying (rigorous assessment) and reflecting on their strengths and personality traits; we then study leadership models and theories, then explore how their strengths and traits can be maximized.  Servant Leadership is a theory-base we tend to "orbit" quite a bit, as it articulates best how effective leaders look after the needs of others so that they reach their full potential. A strength of this way of looking at leadership is that it forces us away from self-serving, domineering leadership models, and makes young, emerging leaders think harder about how to respect, value, and motivate others as part of 'their journey.