How the bottom line mentality fails in companies

CEOs regularly emphasize the importance of achieving profits, shareholder value, market share and other results. Wu and Shen (2024) conducted a study to identify the detrimental influence of executives' bottom-line mentality (BLM) on employee creativity.

Bottom line mentality

BLM stands for the bottom-line mentality, a mental attitude of managers that focuses exclusively on the end result and does not pay attention to other key aspects within the work process.

The research

The current study, which draws on social information processing theory and self-determination theory , aims to understand at a deeper level how such a narrow focus can not only overshadow other considerations, but also actually stifle staff creativity. Two key concepts are highlighted in the study: harmonious passion and humble leadership, and their interactions with BLM.

  • Harmonious Passion: This is finding pleasure in work activities for their intrinsic value and not just for reward. The expectation was that BLM may discourage employees from internalizing work activities as part of their identity. This will reduce harmonious passion and, consequently, reduce creativity.
  • Humble leadership: Leaders who recognize their limitations, value employees' contributions, and are open to new ideas would be expected to moderate BLM's negative effect on harmonious passion. This opens the door to improved creativity among employees.


The results of the study underline that BLM indeed mainly influences employee creativity. In general, BLM can lead to a work environment where employees focus too much on achieving the end results, at the expense of creative processes and innovation.

Interestingly, the research suggests that BLM's negative impact on employees' harmonious passion — and thus their creativity — can be mitigated by the presence of humble leadership. Humble leaders recognize their own limitations, value employees' contributions, and are open to new ideas. This type of leadership can help create an environment more conducive to creativity and innovation.


I think the research reveals three important practical insights:

  • Firstly, not only the results but also the way in which these results are achieved is important. This requires balanced attention to the interests of employees, social and environmental responsibilities in addition to financial goals. By promoting a broader spectrum of values, leaders can contribute to an improved work environment, higher employee satisfaction, and sustainable business practices that benefit both the company and society in the long term.
  • Secondly, that not only short-term results are important, but also a vision that takes the long term into account. Leadership should not be exclusively focused on immediate profits, but also on ensuring future growth and the stability of the company. This involves investments in innovation, employee development, and sustainable methods, which in the long run strengthen the company's resilience and competitiveness. A balanced approach that respects short-term results as well as long-term goals enables leaders to cultivate a more ethical and sustainable corporate culture that serves the interests of a broader range of stakeholders.
  • Finally, that promoting humble leadership is valuable for realizing a creative and committed corporate culture. Humble leaders are aware of their own limitations, open to feedback, and recognize the value and contributions of all employees. This form of leadership fosters an environment where creativity and innovation can flourish, by encouraging employees to take initiative and share their ideas. By embracing humility as a core value, organizations can build a stronger, more connected and resilient team that collectively strives for sustainable success in both the short and long term.