Michael Lederer was born in Princeton, New Jersey in 1956. He grew up in New Haven, Vienna, New York City, and Palo Alto, California. In the 1970s, Lederer lived in a teepee on The Land commune in the Santa Cruz mountains of California. An interview with him about those times can be found on The Land website. In 1981 he received a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Binghamton University in New York. He is a member of Actors' Equity Association (AEA) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). He was an original member of TheatreWorks in Palo Alto. Acting roles there included Prince Serpuhovsky in Tolstoy's Strider, Cyrano in Cyrano de Bergerac, and Sigmund Freud in Fräulein Dora.

In the mid 1980s, Lederer lived in a fishing village called La Herradura on the coast of southern Spain. On 11 December 1984 he fell from the fourth floor balcony of his apartment next to the beach. He recuperated in the Hospital Clinico de San Cecilio in Granada. In the months following he wrote his first book, Nothing Lasts Forever Anymore (published Barcelona, 1999). It was also published in Spanish translation as Ya nada dura eternamente. In 2013, PalmArtPress in Berlin republished the book, also in a German translation as Nichts ist mehr für die Ewigkeit. In 1989, while playing Claudius in a production of Hamlet in London, Lederer issued the first call to save from destruction the ruins of The Rose theatre, the first Elizabethan theatre ever found (Evening Standard, 14 February, 1989). 1997-99 he established the Sir George Downing 17th century manuscript collection at Harvard University.

In 2009, Lederer founded the Dubrovnik Shakespeare Festival in Dubrovnik, Croatia. He is co-founder of Safe Haven Museum in Oswego, New York. Lederer's play Mundo Overloadus premiered at New York's PS122 in 2010. His book The Great Game: Berlin-Warsaw Express and Other Stories was published in Berlin 2012. His first full-length novel, Cadaqués, was published by PalmArtPress in February 2014. In 2016 PalmArtPress published In the Widdle Wat of Time, a collection of Lederer’s poems and very short stories. From 2015 - 2017 he has published a blog for the American Studies Journal. In December 2016, Politico published his article Berlin No Longer an Island.

Lederer lives with his wife Katarina in Berlin and Cadaqués. He has a son Nicholas, born 1988.