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Empowering Organizational Success - William Glasser's Choice Theory in Leadership

Updated: Jan 12

Today's organizations require effective leadership beyond mere directives and managerial oversight. At EDGE, we have witnessed firsthand the transformative power of William Glasser's Choice Theory in shaping organizational cultures and driving success, which is one of the reasons why it is at the foundation of my new book, Where Leadership Begins.


Below, I explore how leaders in healthcare and manufacturing industries can harness the principles of Choice Theory to foster employee engagement, enhance teamwork, and optimize performance. But these can work in any industry and sector.

Understanding Choice Theory

Choice Theory, developed by psychiatrist Dr. William Glasser, is a psychological framework that asserts that all individuals have an inherent need for autonomy, belonging, and personal growth. Glasser's Choice Theory proposes that people's behaviors are driven by their innate desires to meet these needs.


Choice Theory maintains that while leaders cannot directly control the actions of their employees, they can influence these behaviors by creating environments that empower individuals to make positive choices. But it all starts with leaders' choices to 1) lead and 2) maintain a quality world that includes their direct reports.

Empowerment in Healthcare

The healthcare industry is a prime example of an environment where the principles of Choice Theory can lead to remarkable transformations. Effective leadership is essential for optimal outcomes in a hospital setting, where medical teams are under constant pressure to deliver quality care. Imagine with me for a minute a nursing unit where Choice Theory principles replace the traditional authoritarian leadership style. Instead of rigidly dictating procedures, the unit manager has the courage to facilitate open dialogue among the nursing staff. By involving them in decision-making processes and valuing their input, the manager demonstrates vulnerability and taps into their need for autonomy and belonging, fostering a sense of ownership and accountability and improving job satisfaction and patient care. Furthermore, under Choice Theory principles, leaders can work to identify the aspirations of individual team members. For instance, a nurse might express interest in improving patient education techniques.


By facilitating opportunities for skill development in that area, the leader supports personal growth and enhances the team's overall capabilities.

Empowerment in Manufacturing

With its hierarchical structures and emphasis on efficiency, the manufacturing industry might appear less suited to Choice Theory principles. However, even in this setting, the theory can yield remarkable results. Consider a manufacturing plant where employees are often relegated to performing repetitive tasks on the assembly line. A leader well-versed in Choice Theory recognizes the importance of giving these employees purpose and mastery. Instead of monitoring productivity, the leader authentically engages with the workers to understand their aspirations. This could lead to initiatives such as skill diversification, where employees are trained to handle multiple tasks. This addresses their personal growth needs and enhances the plant's flexibility and resilience. Furthermore, in a manufacturing context, teamwork is crucial. Leaders can humbly tap into the team members' need for belonging by fostering collaboration and mutual respect. Regular team huddles, where each member's contribution is acknowledged, create a positive feedback loop that encourages sustained effort and continuous improvement.

Implementing Choice Theory in Leadership

At EDGE and the author of the new book Where Leadership Begins, we understand implementing new approaches requires careful planning and consistent effort. Here's a step-by-step guide for leaders to develop Self-Awareness and integrate Choice Theory principles into their organizational leadership:


  1. Understanding Needs: Educate leaders about the fundamental human needs identified by Choice Theory—survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun.

  2. Open Communication: Encourage leaders to foster open, honest communication with their teams. Actively listen to employee feedback and concerns, demonstrating respect for their viewpoints.

  3. Empower Decision-Making: Delegate decision-making authority whenever possible. Doing so empowers employees and allows leaders to focus on broader strategic issues.

  4. Individual Growth Plans: Work with leaders to develop employee growth plans. These plans can encompass skill development, career advancement, and personal goals.

  5. Recognition and Appreciation: Promote a culture of appreciation by recognizing and celebrating employee achievements. This can be done through regular feedback, rewards, and public acknowledgment.

  6. Team Building Activities: Organize team-building activities that foster camaraderie and collaboration. These activities can range from workshops to recreational outings.

  7. Performance Management: Shift the focus from punitive performance management to a constructive approach. Offer guidance and support to help employees overcome challenges and improve.

  8. Continuous Learning: Encourage leaders to continually learn about Choice Theory and its applications. This could involve reading, workshops, and networking with other leaders who have successfully implemented the theory.


Adopting William Glasser's Choice Theory in organizational leadership can revolutionize how we approach human resources in diverse industries. Leaders who embrace this approach recognize that employees are not mere cogs in a machine but individuals with intrinsic needs and aspirations. By catering to these needs, leaders can create environments that inspire motivation, engagement, and collaboration.


Choice Theory empowers leaders to drive positive change and foster sustainable success, whether in the high-stress healthcare environment or the structured manufacturing world. So, let's choose to lead with self-awareness, authenticity, humility, vulnerability, and courage, cultivating an unwavering belief in the potential of every individual within our organizations.




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