Leadership and Choice Theory

6 Pages Posted: 30 May 2017

See all articles by Alexander Horniman

Alexander Horniman

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business


This technical note explores leadership through the framework of choice theory. As human beings, we actively engage in four strongly interconnected domains of choice: our activities, our thinking, our feelings, and our physiology. Effective leaders understand the behaviors they are choosing and the potential consequences of those behaviors for others. Choice theory provides a framework for choosing behaviors that solve problems and create value.This note is used as a background reading in Darden's Leadership Learning Lab and in several Executive Education offerings.



Jul. 24, 2013


People choose to join clubs and choose the leaders of those clubs. Clubs that work well are defined by good relationships, and club leaders play a vital role in the relationship process. Choice theory provides a useful framework for understanding the choices we make as leaders and the choices others make.

A Total Behavior Perspective

As human beings, we actively engage in four domains of choice: our activities (what we say and do), our thinking, our feelings, and our physiology. These four domains of behavior are strongly interconnected. We directly choose our thinking and acting and indirectly choose our feelings and physiology. Our feelings and physiology influence our thinking and acting. Whatever we do, we are always thinking and feeling.

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Keywords: leadership, language, choice theory, total behavior, quality world, mindfulness

Suggested Citation

Horniman, Alexander, Leadership and Choice Theory. Darden Case No. UVA-OB-1052, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2974828

Alexander Horniman (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/html/direc_detail.aspx?styleid=2&id=4329

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