There is an ongoing debate about how supervisors should communicate desired end‐states to subordinates, that is, whether they should set concrete goals (according to goal setting theory) or communicate abstract visions (according to transformational leadership theory). In this paper, we draw on construal level theory (CLT) to reconcile both views and develop a model of when supervisors communicating concrete goals versus abstract visions are seen as more effective. According to CLT, being psychologically removed from (vs. near to) an event or object makes people construe the event or object in a more abstract (vs. concrete) way, which, in turn, leads people to process abstract (vs. concrete) information more fluently and thus evaluate the sender of this information more favorably. Accordingly, supervisor effectiveness may be higher in conditions where communication and psychological distance to the supervisor converge (vision/far and goals/close) rather than diverge (vision/close and goals/far). We tested this hypothesis in two experiments, using different operationalizations of psychological distance. In these studies, we found supervisor effectiveness to be higher when vision was communicated at a far versus near distance and goals were communicated at a near versus far distance.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.