Inspiring Positive Change: The Paradoxical Mind of Robert E. Quinn

By: Gretchen M. Spreitzer

Spreitzer G.M. (2017) Inspiring Positive Change: The Paradoxical Mind of Robert E. Quinn. In: Szabla D., Pasmore W., Barnes M., Gipson A. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Organizational Change Thinkers. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.


This chapter focuses on the work of Robert E. Quinn. He has devoted his professional and personal life to developing himself and others into understanding what it means to be an inspiring change agent. From his life lessons as a child to his unconventional insights as a college student to his work in church life, and especially in his scholarship, Quinn has used key life experiences to learn and grow. Every step of the way, he has sought to understand, document, and ignite transformational experiences. In this way, he is an exemplary applied behavioral scientist, continually integrating scholarship and practice. Quinn’s major contributions include (1) the development of the competing values model which embraces the role of tension and paradox to understand organizational life, (2) articulating the essential role of self-empowerment in inspiring positive change, and (3) challenging the assumption that leadership is less about having a position of authority and more about having a mind-set (the fundamental state of leadership). In the last decade, Quinn has brought these different contributions together as a cofounder of a new field of organizational studies, named positive organizational scholarship, which focuses on the science for bringing out the very best in organizations, teams, and individuals. Quinn’s contributions extend beyond these content areas as he is also a masterful teacher and mentor who helps others envision their full potential. For all of these reasons, Quinn’s personal vision to inspire positive change has been fulfilled on many dimensions.