Transformational Leadership During Times of Crisis at the Institute for Free Speech

I am currently interning at the Institute for Free Speech which is a think tank in Washington DC committed to defending the First Amendment and the right to political speech in the United States. These times have been particularly challenging for the country as we are dealing with a deadly pandemic while also encountering widespread unrest as a result of systematic acts of racism and police brutality. As part of my work, I have been tracking emerging threats to free expression relating to the free press and the right to protest. Many government officials have implemented limitations on the ability to gather and protest in the pandemic. Additionally, the police in many cases have responded excessively to the attempts to hold protests and also on the ability for journalists to report on the protests. Recently, President Trump cleared peaceful protesters out of Lafayette Park using chemical gas in violation of their constitutional rights. Over 300 journalists have been assaulted during the protests and many reporters have even been arrested doing their work. My organization is handling outreach and advocacy so that First Amendment rights are protected.

The Institute for Free Speech engages in transformational leadership due to its emphasis on values while it assists the nation in dealing with these crises while protecting our ideals. James McGregor Burns defines transformational leadership as the process where leaders work to raise “one another to higher levels of morality and motivation” (Burns). He emphasizes that transformational leadership is fundamentally different from transactional leadership. Transactional leadership is based in the leader engaging in an exchange where the leader provides something to followers in exchange for something for the followers. Transformational leadership is different because it goes beyond transactions to motivate followers to recognize the importance of moral values. Thus, a transformational leader seeks to elevate followers in order to subscribe to higher levels of morality.

The Institute for Free Speech is an organization that focuses on transformational leadership over transactional leadership. Importantly, my organization is not transactional because we do not offer anything in exchange. Our role is to advocate for the values of the First Amendment as we seek to motivate government officials and citizens to achieve higher levels of moral aspiration. We emphasize that the First Amendment is a sacrosanct principle to the health of our democracy and it is a constitutional right to which everyone is entitled. Therefore, we are committed to making sure that even in times of crisis these rights are protected. One of our missions is to make sure that citizens are able to exercise the greatest possible latitude to protest against government and police actions because protest is all the more important in times of emergency.

The Institute of Free Speech’s focus on leading through values and promoting moral government action distinguishes the organization as a transformational leader rather than a transactional one. I share the organization’s values and that is why I enjoy promoting these important principles in our society.


Works Cited:

Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper & Row