While on the faculty at Harvard Business School, Professor Higgins engaged in two major streams of research. Both research streams have at their core the assumption that leaders develop in relationship to others. In the first research stream, she examines how developmental relationships impact leadership development, whereas in the second research stream, she focuses more on the role that organizations play in leadership development. In addition to the introductory paragraphs below, details of these two streams of research are provided under the two subsections, "leadership development and mentoring" and "leadership development and teams."
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT & MENTORING
Professor Higgins' first research stream focuses on the conditions under which mentoring relationships help or hinder leadership development. Her major contribution here has been to help reconceptualize the field of mentoring by introducing the concept of a “developmental network.” Traditionally, mentoring has been regarded as developmental assistance that is provided by a single person, usually a senior colleague within one’s place of work. In Professor Higgins' research with co‐author Kathy Kram and others, she has demonstrated that the study of mentoring should include support that is provided by more than one person – that people have multiple developmental relationships that often span boundaries, including but not limited to organizational boundaries: for example, they may be with family or community members or professional colleagues. And, as a set of relationships, they may be considered a network – a “developmental network.” As her research shows, examining the composition and quality of an individual’s developmental network can provide greater insight into important outcomes than can the study of single, intra‐organizational mentoring relationships, as has been done in the past.
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT & TEAMS
Professor Higgins' second stream of research examines the importance of organizational context to the development of leaders and senior leadership teams. In particular, she examines the role that organizational practices (e.g., socialization) play in the development of entrepreneurial leaders and, in turn, how prior career experiences of senior leadership teams can influence organizational performance. In addition to academic articles, this research has resulted in a book in Warren Bennis’ Leadership Development Series with Jossey Bass‐Wiley called, Career Imprints: Creating Leaders Across an Industry (2005). Both the book and the academic papers are based upon archival data analyses of over 3,200 career histories of biotechnology executives, analyses of prospectus information gathered and coded on approximately 300 biotechnology firms and interviews that she conducted across the country with approximately 80 executives.