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.

WesMr. Wes Brooks (ABD)
Associate Dean of Students, Director of Residential Life


Leadership development is a journey. It is a process. I believe leadership is cultivated through the partnership between lived experience and education. As a leadership educator, I see my role as a facilitator to assist students in discovering their own strengths, gifts and passions. Leadership as defined by the Institute for Leadership Education is “taking responsibility for our communities, and making them better through public action.” Taking responsibility indicates a desire to “want to do something” rather than an obligation to “have to do something”. That difference is specifically why I believe strongly in leadership education. If my students desire to make an impact in the world around them, I want to present them with tools to assist them in fulfilling that desire. My interest in leadership development stems from my passion of seeing people maximize their gifts, capitalize on their strengths and embrace their deficiencies to address matters that impact the greater good and my course content represents that personal interest.

My dissertation addresses the life journeys of upper level administrators. It captures lived experiences of current college presidents that directly impacted their ability to be successful in different leadership roles in an effort to better understand what aspiring leaders need to be prepared for and to engage in to be successful in the future.

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.

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.