Leaders can elicit stronger commitment and willingness to follow requested actions when they deliver messages tailored to the audience’s “psychological distance” from them, according to Stanford’s Nir Halevy and Yair Berson of Bar-Ilan University.
“Construal level theory” (CLT), developed by NYU’s Yaacov Trop and Nira Liberman of Tel Aviv University, posits that the “psychological distance” is related to differences in organizational hierarchy position as well as spatial and temporal distance.
Halevy and Berson found that greater psychological distance requires greater message abstractness, often characterized as “high level,” “visionary,” and “big picture” communications.
In contrast, communications with people who work closely with each other are more influential when messages are concrete and specific.
Halevy and Berson found that “construal fit” is associated with greater job satisfaction, commitment, and social bonding.
These findings add to other “fit” theories, pioneered by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership concepts, and suggest leadership behaviors are most effective when tailored to specific workplace situations,
Practical implications include:
- Providing more specific messages to people working in different locations and time zones.
- Pairing individuals at closer organizational levels for workplace mentoring rather than “executive shadowing” experiences.
*How do you tailor leadership communications based on the audience’s “psychological distance” and “construal level?”
- Multiple Paths Toward Goals Can Motivate, then Derail Success
- Paradoxical Bias against Innovative Ideas in the Workplace
- Reframing Non-Comparable Choices to Make Them Simpler, More Satisfying
- Power of “Powerless” Speech, but not Powerless Posture