What Does It Take To Transform with Michael Quinlan

michael quinlan

Listen to the full podcast episode to learn about the science-backed practice that has not only changed my life but also the lives of countless people over the last two decades. This is something you can’t ignore if you want to achieve that great goal you identified for this year and write your new future. I’m incredibly excited to have Michael Quinlan with us for this episode. Michael is a regional vice president of sales at SAP, a transformational leader, a father, and a man I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for several years.


Michael is passionate about personal development and has a willingness to consider things from a different vantage point, even if it humbles his ego. After attending the SAP Masters program for leadership in London, he published a paper on transformational leadership called What Does it Take to Transform? Michael is joining us to share his story of personal and professional transformation and what leaders can do to evolve themselves and those they serve. 

“My journey into leadership was something that I really never had intended.” – Michael Quinlan

Michael had always envisioned himself as a salesperson who would make his career out of taking down big deals. After 20 years in his role and accomplishing the goals he wanted to achieve as an individual contributor, he had the itch for something more. When he realized the impact he could make by helping others in his company, he decided to step into a leadership position but quickly hit a wall.

“The training that we received was minimal at best. […] There was never any development around what it takes to lead and motivate and develop a team. So my leadership style, since I really didn’t have one, was just imitating what I had seen from leaders that had been over me in the past.” – Michael Quinlan

It’s common for people who excel as individual contributors to step into a leadership role and struggle because they lack the skill set to motivate and develop others on their team. Often, they rely on hand-me-down leadership approaches without fully understanding their purpose.

Then Michael came across the SAP master’s program on leading sales transformation.

“Transformational leadership is absolutely showing up in front of your team with trust and with vulnerability. In order for somebody to feel like they can transform, you really have to do it yourself first.” – Michael Quinlan

Transformational leadership requires self-evaluation, personal growth and actively engaging with your team to create a supportive environment. When you care for your employees and help them overcome their weaknesses, you build trust and increase productivity and performance.

“The hardest thing to do in coaching is to not give the answer.” – Michael Quinlan

Bosses give the answer; coaching managers ask questions that prompt self-reflection and empower the individual. This approach enables employees to take ownership of their words and actions and fosters personal development. When we give the answers, we reinforce an individual’s insecurity and uncertainty, taking away their power and making them more dependent on us.

There are three obstacles to transformational leadership inside a corporation:

  1. Mislabeling the type of problem
  2. Corporate hierarchies and centralizing decision-making
  3. The perception of risk

“People in middle management positions can have a big impact on the world that we live in.” – Michael Quinlan

Middle managers bridge the gap between resource-rich corporations and individuals who can execute the initiatives that would create positive change. It becomes disconcerting when these corporations have the resources to make these changes happen but aren’t willing to transform.

In a survey of 3,400 people, 70% said that their mental health is as influenced by their boss as by their spouse.

We need to acknowledge the level of influence we have to empower and bring out the best in our employees. By bravely stepping into the role and embracing vulnerability, we enable others to follow suit.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Michael’s journey into leadership and the challenges he faced
  • The principles of transformational leadership and how they can positively impact teams and organizations
  • The three major obstacles preventing us from the transformative change in the workplace
  • Michael’s advice for transformation as an individual, leader, and team

Resources and related episodes:

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About Rita Hyland

With over 20 years of experience as an executive and leadership coach, Rita helps leaders — emerging and established — excel in corporate and entrepreneurial environments.

Rita believes if leaders were more clear about how transformation really works and more intentional about creating what they want, their impact, success, and influence in the world would be unstoppable.

Through her coaching programs, private coaching, and masterminds, Rita shows leaders how to win consistently and create the impact and legacy they desire.

Central to Rita’s work is the understanding that you will never outperform your current programming, no matter how strong your willpower.

When you learn to use Rita’s proprietary Neuroleadership Growth Code, a technology that uses the best of neuroscience and transformational psychology to hit the brain’s buttons for change, YOU become both the solution and the strategy.

Her mission is to end talented, hard-working, and self-aware leaders spending another day stuck in self-doubt or confusion and not contributing their brilliant work and talent the world so desperately needs.

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