Leadership Development & Mentoring


This first research stream began with a paper called “Reconceptualizing Mentoring at Work: A Developmental Network Perspective,” which, for the first time, formally proposed the idea of a “developmental network” as a new way of thinking about mentoring. This paper, co‐authored with Kathy Kram, was published in the Academy of Management’s top theory journal, Academy of Management Review, in 2001. It was nominated for the William A. Owens Scholarly Achievement Award for the best refereed article in the field of industrial and organizational psychology for the year 2001.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article

Higgins, M.C., & Kram, K.E. (2001). Reconceptualizing mentoring at work: A developmental network perspective. Academy of Management Review, 26(2) , 264–288.


Professor Higgins' empirical studies show how the composition and quality of one’s developmental network can impact important career outcomes, including the following: work satisfaction, organizational commitment, intentions to remain with an organization, promotion, development of a professional identity and career‐related self‐efficacy. These nine peer‐reviewed empirical articles on developmental networks have appeared in scholarly journals such as Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Vocational Behavior, and Social Networks. Also listed, are several book chapters, and practice-based pieces Professor Higgins has written based upon her research on developmental networks and helping relationships.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Higgins, M.C., Dobrow, S., & Roloff, K. (in press). Optimism in the new boundaryless career environment: The role of developmental networks. [Special Issue: The New Boundaryless Career]. Journal of Organizational Behavior.

Higgins, M.C., Dobrow, S., & Chandler, D. (2008). Never quite good enough: The paradox of sticky developmental relationships for elite university graduates. [Special Interdisciplinary Issue on Mentoring].Journal of Vocational Behavior, 72,207-224.

Cummings, J., & Higgins, M.C. (2006). Relational instability at the core: Support dynamics in developmental networks. Social Networks, 28(1) ,38–55.

Dobrow, S., & Higgins, M.C. (2005). Developmental networks and professional identity: A longitudinal study. [Special Issue on Mentoring].Career Development International, 10(6/7) ,567–587.

Higgins, M.C. (2001). Changing careers: The effects of social context. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 22,595–618.

Higgins, M.C., & Thomas, D.A. (2001). Constellations and careers: Toward understanding the effects of multiple developmental relationships. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 22(3), 223–247.

Higgins, M.C. (2001). When is helping helpful? Effects of evaluation and intervention timing on individual task performance. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 37(3), 280–298.

Higgins, M.C. (2001). Follow the leader? The effects of social influence on employer choice. [Special Issue on Careers in the 21st Century]. Group and Organization Management, 26 (3), 255-282.

Higgins, M.C. (2000). The more, the merrier? Multiple developmental relationships and work satisfaction. Journal of Management Development, 19(4), 277–296.

Book Chapters

Higgins, M.C., Chandler, D., & Kram, K.E. (2007). Boundary spanning of developmental networks: A social network perspective on mentoring. In B.R. Ragins & K.E Kram (Eds.), The handbook of mentoring at work: Theory, research, and practice(pp. 349-372). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Higgins, M.C. (2006). A contingency perspective on developmental networks. In J. Dutton & B.R. Ragins (Eds.), Exploring positive relationships at work: Building a theoretical and research foundation(pp. 207-224). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Higgins, M., & Nohria, N. (1999). The side-kick effect: Mentoring relationships and the development of social capital. In R. Leenders & S. Gabbay (Eds.), Corporate social capital and liability(pp. 161-179). Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Higgins, M., & Thomas, D.A. (1996). Mentoring and the boundaryless career: Lessons from the minority experience. In M.B. Arthur & D.M. Rousseau (Eds.), The boundaryless career: A new employment principle for a new organizational era(pp. 268-281). New York: Oxford University Press.

Practice Based Articles

Kram, K.E., & Higgins, M.C. A new mindset on mentoring: Creating developmental networks at work. Business Insights: a joint publication by the Wall Street Journal(September, 2008) and the MIT Sloan Management Review(February, 2009).

Higgins, M.C., Trotter, L., Ablon, S.L., Pearson, S., & Mohan, M. (2000) “What should C.J. do?” [Comment on Too old to learn?]. Harvard Business Review, 78(6), 43–52.

Developmental Network Questionnaire

Developmental Network Questionnaire.HBS case 404-105 (2004).

Developmental Network Questionnaire (Multimedia).HBS multimedia case 405-701 (2004).

Developmental Network Questionnaire (Teaching Note).HBS teaching note 405-039 (2004).


Much of Professor Higgins' empirical work on developmental networks has come from a project she launched in 1996 called Building Career Foundations. This is a longitudinal study of the developmental relationships, careers, and leadership development of a sample of 136 members of the Harvard Business School MBA Class of 1996. Today, after four rounds of data collection, she has over ten years of relational network data (on over 1,000 relationships) and with these data has undertaken longitudinal analyses to better understand how developmental networks influence leadership development. Building Career Foundations is also a multimedia project with in‐depth interviews with ten focal individuals whom she has followed over a period of ten years. These interview data have led to the development of several multi‐media cases that she now teaches in the final section of her course, “Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Learning.” In addition to her academic pulications, the findings from this project have been highlighted in The New York Times and Financial Times.

News Articles

“Was Earning That Harvard M.B.A Worth It?” By Abby Ellin, The New York Times, June 11, 2006

“Is a Harvard MBA Really a Ticket to the Good Life? Ask the Class of 1996” By Abby Ellin, Financial Times, June 28, 2006