Leadership Development & Teams


Professor Higgins' book, "Career Imprints: Creating Leaders Across an Industry," begins with the observation of a spawning phenomenon Professor Higgins observed in the field of healthcare. As her data show, in biotechnology, of the 299 firms that went public in the seventeen years between 1979 and 1996, approximately one quarter had at least one member of their senior leadership team who, at some point in their career, worked at Baxter Travenol—a healthcare firm located in the Midwest. What was it about the organizational environment at Baxter that yielded so many leader entrepreneurs at the dawn of the biotechnology industry? This was the focus of the book project.

A crucial explanation for the entrepreneurial spawning that Professor Higgins documented centers on the kinds of career experiences that Baxter general managers shared. What she suggests in the book is that different kinds of organizational practices influence the kinds of leadership experiences individuals have and the resultant “career imprints” they take up. An “organizational career imprint” refers to the set of capabilities, confidence, connections, and cognition that result from shared career experiences within a particular organization at a particular period in time. Based upon both qualitative and quantitative data analyses, she suggests that at Baxter, the kind of career imprint cultivated was an “entrepreneurial career imprint,” which related to Baxter managers’ attraction to and attraction by leadership opportunities emerging in the field of biotechnology as the industry began.

Professor Higgins also uses the term "ecosystem perspective" in the book to refer to the ways in which Baxter continued to maintain relationships with its alumni even after they left to run their own firms in biotechnology. In the book, she explores how Baxter’s ecosystem stance may have helped these ex‐Baxter managers build powerful networks in the biotechnology industry (e.g., serving as referrals and references for one another as they launched new ventures). Many organizations, including consulting firms, such as McKinsey, and talent management organizations, such as Teach for America, engage in this kind of ecosystem practice – an idea that is reflected in Professor Higgins' current research in education.


Career Imprints on Google Books


In addition to the Career Imprints book, Professor Higgins has written four academic articles from the data she collected on senior leadership teams in biotechnology. These papers have been published in top‐tier journals such as Organization Science and Strategic Management Journal. The academic articles have primarily focused on the relationship between the composition of senior leadership teams and their ability to garner valuable resources in the marketplace. In particular, she has examined how executives’ prior leadership and career experiences relate to the performance of the organizations they lead. Professor Higgins has also written several book chapters on career imprinting, teams, and leadership development.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Kim, J., & Higgins, M.C. (2007). Where do alliances come from? The role of upper echelons in alliance formation. Research Policy, 3, 499-514.

Higgins, M.C., & Gulati, R. (2006). Stacking the deck: The effects of top management team composition on investor decision-making. Strategic Management Journal, 27(1), 1–25.

Higgins, M.C., & Gulati, R. (2003). Getting off to a good start: The effects of upper echelon affiliations on underwriter prestige. Organization Science, 14(3), 244–263.

Gulati, R., & Higgins, M.C. (2003). Which ties matter when? The contingent effects of interorganizational partnerships on IPO Success. Strategic Management Journal, 24(2), 127–144.

Book Chapters

Higgins, M.C., & Dillon, J.R. (2007). Career patterns and organizational performance. In M. Peiperl & H. Gunz (Eds.), Handbook of career studies(pp. 422-436). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Higgins, M.C. (2004). Career imprinting and leadership development: Theory and practice. In S. Chowdhury (Ed.), Next generation business handbook(pp. 91-105). Hoboken, NJ: J.Wiley & Sons.

Higgins, M.C. (2002). Careers creating industries: Some early evidence from the biotechnology industry. In M.B. Peiperl, M.B. Arthur, & N. Anand (Eds.), Career creativity: Explorations in the remaking of work(pp. 280-297). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Higgins, M.C. (2006). We’re here to help (Not!). In R. Maruca (Ed.), What managers say, what employees hear: Connecting with your front line (So they’ll connect with customers)(pp 65-72). Westport, CT: Praeger.