Michael McGrath

Michael McGrath at Great British Speakers

Michael made history in 2004 by becoming the first disabled person to lead expeditions to both the north and south poles – what makes this achievement all the more remarkable is that in 1984, aged just 18yrs, michael was diagnosed with the muscle wasting disease muscular dystrophy (md).

The journey gave rise to a new life plan, inspiring Michael to embark on a career as an internationally recognised motivational business speaker. He has built an enviable list of clients, providing carefully tailored speeches for organisations including HMRC, PwC, Shell, Hilton Hotels and the NHS.

Leadership, courage and trust combined with resolute self-belief, confidence, teamwork and a singularly focused obsession towards achieving desired outcomes were critical success factors – Michael draws on these experiences, giving wider business and life lessons.

Michael also used his Arctic adventures as a launch pad for The Muscle Help Foundation, a small multi-award winning charity with national reach that delivers highly-personalised experiences, known as Muscle Dreams, for children and young people with MD. Michael is affectionately known as the Chief Muscle Warrior; he is a Founder and the CEO.

The charity has delivered more than 250 transformational Muscle Dreams, helping children realise cherished ambitions, including interviewing Al Pacino, training with the England football team and hanging out with Lewis Hamilton. MHF’s profile is growing and in 2015, the charity was named the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team’s official Charity Partner for 2015/16.

Michael’s work was recognised in the Queen’s Speech 2004 when Her Majesty praised his “contribution to national life”.

In 2005, Michael received the prestigious Business Traveller of the Year Award presented to him by Kate Adie in Dubai.

He was also a Paralympic Torchbearer in 2012 and most recently, he was named (for the second year) as one of the most influential disabled people in Britain, featuring in the Power 100 2017.

Michael McGrath Polar Explorer and Inspirational speaker at Great British Speakers

Prior to Michael’s expeditions to the North and South Poles, he was an influential figure in the hospitality sector. He remains diligently engaged with the industry having served as a Disability Ambassador for Hilton Hotels, while he also volunteers as a judge on the prestigious Cateys Awards.

Michael has received recognition and awards for his work in business, his charity and his record-breaking polar adventures. Recent accolades include:

2017 – Featured in 2017 (and 2016) Power 100 listing recognising Britain’s most influential people with a disability

2015 – Winner of ‘Unsung Hero’ Herts and Essex Mercury and Observer Community Awards 2015

2016, 2015 & 2013 - Michael’s charity The Muscle Help Foundation - Winner of the prestigious ‘Inspiring Herts’ Award for Best Social Enterprise of the Year

2012 – Selected as one of the Paralympic Torchbearers proudly carrying the flame on one of its final legs to the Olympic Stadium

2004 – Recognised by the Queen for his “contribution to national life” at Buckingham Palace

2004 – Included in the 2004 Christmas Day broadcast by Her Majesty to the nation reinforcing the importance of diversity as a strength

Whilst Michael’s talks are always individually crafted around different client objectives and by default different themes, his talks are laced with anecdotes from his polar achievements (including life lessons) and insights from his own life experiences are used to reinforce key business messages – Michael also takes time to actually speak to and learn about an organisation as part of the briefing process which underpins his own research and presentation preparation – this is one of Michael’s key points of difference and something that clients value greatly

The Word: 

Keynote topics:

Something Michael prides himself in is his bespoke approach to speaking. He works together with clients to meet their needs for each event, so his keynote topics are subject guides rather than off the shelf talks. 

Michael's talks can last anywhere between 1hr to 1.5hrs (to incl film), although he is perfectly capable of giving a 30 mins presentation or a 3hr masterclass.

Popular topics include...


At the heart of failure or success, in the face of adversity (difficult circumstances), is something called resilience, an attribute that Michael possesses in bucket loads. How is it that some people can develop their own personal ‘resilience’ strategies and as a result, respond better to for example the pressures that work increasingly throws at us?


Ever the optimist, Michael’s natural leadership style and the principles he strives for have in part been shaped by his hero, Sir Ernest Shackleton but also by his Jesuit education that today has profoundly influenced his understanding of: Values-based leadership, Taking personal responsibility and Helping others.


A daily occurrence for Michael; in his view, it builds personal resilience and character. Every difficulty we successfully confront in life serves to strengthen our will, our confidence and our ability to face head-on, process and conquer future challenges.


Learn how Michael’s single-mindedness, personal drive and obsessive focus on outcomes were critical success factors. From the role his support team played, the extensive research, sponsorship and contingency planning carried out to the sourcing of specialist advisers to help with his mental and physical training, Michael shares the tools that helped him address the multitude of risks (to himself, his team and the environment) that such expeditions attract.


Through compelling examples including what he refers to as his ‘Castaway’ moment, Michael shares how through circumstance, change was forced upon him and how today, he extols the virtues and benefits in establishing ‘Change Champions’ to help support and drive organisational change programmes.


Whilst most productive teams share common goals, even a common vision, Michael’s perspectives on teamwork reinforce the view that whilst the ends may sometimes differ, the means by which one gets there are the same. A colourful account of teamwork with the occasional Noel Coward reference around ‘mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun’ give a unique insight into how the impossible was made possible.


Find out what it’s taken for Michael to build a multi-award winning charity with national reach. From Michael’s observations of ‘entrepreneurialism’, why is it that some charity leaders are increasingly fatigued by the term and unsure how to embrace it. Learn why combining a passion for one’s cause with an eye for where a charity could get the best return is vital. In Michael’s view, charities must play to their strengths in leveraging their assets whilst also recognising their weaknesses. In today’s world of immediacy driven in part by technology, nurturing that entrepreneurial spirit is something that Michael strongly advocates.

Michael McGrath Disabled Adventurer and Inspirational speaker at Great British Speakers
What the Clients say:

"Michael McGrath is an outstanding and inspiring speaker. He recently joined our 2017 Top Leaders Conference (at Aston Villa FC) and delivered a powerful, inspiring and thought provoking address. We were captivated by his journey, the way he navigated and thought about the (often huge) difficulties he faced and the adversity he has overcome. He really challenged us all to think outside of the box about the journey we face together and how we will achieve our goals. His story really resonated with our leaders; it was witty, imaginative and often emotional – and presented with panache. The standing ovation was simply testament to the emotion and connection he reached with all of the audience"

Mike Baker, CBE, Director Personal Tax, HM Revenue & Customs


“I would just like to say a huge THANK YOU to Michael for attending and supporting our FF15 event on 12 May 2017 at the Hotel Café Royal in London. Michael is a powerful motivational speaker. He has a unique ability to engage different audiences both intellectually and emotionally. Versatile, thoughtful and on-message, his talk resonated with the FF15 graduates, event professionals, trainers, agencies and corporates present. His blend of humour, authenticity in talking about his own adversity and sharing his life lessons provided a fascinating insight into his world. Many guests were moved and we’ve received some brilliant feedback. If your business is looking for an inspiring and memorable speaker, I’d have no hesitation in recommending Michael”

Fay Sharpe, VP, BCD Meetings & Events, Founder FF15, Founder Shareholder Zibrant

“Michael's May 2017 presentation was the culmination and highlight of a day laced with inspirational messaging. The delivery of his compelling life story fitted so well and it was clear that he had tailored his FF15 message perfectly to accommodate both his audience and the time in which he had to deliver it. I can highly recommend the imagery, the anecdotes and the incredible story behind Michael's journey”

Tony McMurray, Senior Director & Chief Financial Officer, Ingram Micro

“Michael delivered an inspirational keynote at our 2017 Annual Leadership Mission Impossible Conference. He completed extensive research on our business by speaking to a number of our senior executives and fully embraced the conference theme. He talked about leadership, management and his extensive experience in overcoming adversity which was very well received”

Jamie Lamb, Executive Chairman, Kew Green Hotels

On the 3rd December 2016 Michael delivered an outstanding masterclass presentation to an audience of around 60 Executive MBA students, business leaders and academic faculty. He spoke with passion and conviction as he offered unique insights into the role of his personal ethos and leadership style in his capacity to overcome adversity and thrive in his delivery on commendable social and entrepreneurial objectives. Michael was able to connect with the audience at an emotional and professional level, and many of the conversations that begun that evening continue. His knowledge and experience means that Michael can connect with a corporate audience on key professional issues including resilience, personal values and a spirit of constructive personal responsibility. I would strongly recommend Michael as a speaker for any professional audience tasked with working and managing in a turbulent, innovative and connected environment. Thanks again Michael for a terrific evening!

Dr Phil Mason, Senior Lecturer & MBA Deputy Programme Director, University of Hertfordshire

“My grandfather Ernest Shackleton listed the qualities he looked for in a polar explorer as optimism, patience, imagination, idealism and courage. I believe that Michael possesses all of these”

Rt. Hon Alexandra Shackleton

“Michael is a truly inspirational speaker whose personal story and courage encourages all leaders to reflect on their own approach, think about the way they engage with those around them and focus on what’s possible in life”

Graeme McEwan, Chief Communication Officer, Standard Life

“It is not often that speakers get standing ovations and yet Michael inspires that in people. Always well prepared, always on message and always professional. I look forward to further opportunities to work together”

Karen Bloomfield, Leadership and OD Manager, Health Education East of England, NHS

"Michael McGrath was the guest speaker at all four of our All Staff Conferences. The lessons and experiences he shared on leadership, change and overcoming adversity were truly inspirational and thought provoking. Not only did he receive standing ovations at the events, but we continue to receive excellent feedback, 3 months on, as staff have put into practice and learned from the principles he outlined. I would certainly recommend him"

Roy O’Shaughnessy, Chief Executive, Shaw Trust

“Michael is a fascinating speaker with great passion, clarity and a wonderful ability to engage an audience”

Nicole Bearne, Internal Communications Manager & Assistant to Paddy Lowe, Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team

“Motivating, thought provoking and moving”

Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer, NHS England

“Probably the most inspirational speaker in the world. Michael faces his own challenges with great courage and professionalism. What he has achieved is truly remarkable and the world is a better place for his contribution”

Derek Williams, The WOW! Awards - Catching people doing things right! Employee Engagement, Recognition & Customer Service

See Michael in action:

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