Father of Motivation and Sage of Maui
The life and work of author and speaker Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, who died at the age of seventy-five in 2015, provides the opportunity to reflect on leadership from a holistic perspective beyond a specific organizational setting or national politics. Dyer’s many best-selling books on the practical psychology of personal development towards a positive transformation for all of humanity  brought him the nickname of the Father of Motivation by his fans . Writing and meditating on Maui on Eastern Philosophies like Taoism, the Sage of Maui covers the self-conscious wisdom category of the self-help genre . Like in the book ‘Wisdom of the Ages,’ Dyer’s messages focus on virtuous love, inspiration, and patience as found in Confucian, Christian, and Thoreauvian teachings . Having written ‘Erroneous Zones,’ one of the most famous books of all time , and if leadership is about influence, Wayne Dyer was an enormous leader in influencing masses around the globe . Although not limited to an organizational goal setting context, the topics Dyer was promoting represent the core of the study of leadership and address change, motivation, inspiration, and influence .
A practical, humorous, personal, and sometimes too self-confident leader?
As a Welch proverb puts it aptly: “The hand will not reach for what the heart does not long for” , p. 38. In that sense, Dyer’s messages speak empathically to the core desires of people through practical, humorous , and personal  stories, presented as inviting offerings rather than pushing rules. Practical intelligence is of high importance for leaders . Indeed, Dyer focused on outcome rather than intellectualization , one possible reason why he chose the career of an independent writer rather than continuing his university job, which he saw limited to producing papers for the sake of a small self-serving academic community . It was Dyer’s high self-confidence that allowed him to, for example, tell “the shocking truth” he was so convinced about publicly  and therefore intuitively take required risks to advance his growth as a leader . Dyer got accused of plagiarism of Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) . However, he did seemingly ignore what other people think of him  and unwaveringly continued his mission.
Life transitions and openness to experience
Assertiveness is the candid expression of one’s desires, opinions, and feelings and may help to get the recognition that is a powerful human motivator . Wayne Dyer’s public exposure of his style in writing and speaking may have also reflected a personality tendency of extraversion. In the US, extraversion is a personality trait showcased to create a societal image of openness and friendliness . It is therefore difficult to say how much Dyer’s demonstration of extraversion is part of his working brand to reach the goal of spreading his messages as much as possible, and how much, in comparison, he enjoyed his extended writing retreats on Maui from a more introvert perspective. In any case, according to his children’s accounts, he naturally loved to lecture and entertain others with his vast knowledge . Extraversion and openness to experience are personal characteristics that strongly relate to leadership effectiveness . Wayne Dyer’s openness to experience may be well seen in his demonstration of mindfulness that allowed him to accept new and demanding situations, to further develop his self-image, to promote changes, and to let go of attachments . Dyer went through different career transitions and lived over time with three wives and eight children . He also underwent a spiritual transformation in his “meaning stage” of life. These may be lessons of what Dyer framed in his film ‘Shift’ as “What was true in the morning has become a lie in the afternoon” .
Between charismatic mentorship and rescuer syndrome?
Regardless of the leadership position, it seems that the opportunity to help others’ personal growth, rather than sources of satisfaction like power, salary and status  represented the main motive of meaningfulness for Wayne Dyer throughout his life. Dyer spent parts of his childhood in foster homes. However, he described himself as seeing and remembering mainly the positive aspects, what helped him already at the age of three to help others in overcoming their despair . It may be this “naturally” developed talent of soothing others distress that adds a charismatic quality  to Dyer’s personality. In his thirties, Dyer visited his father’s grave and could resolve his anger towards that person who had left a wife with small children in a difficult situation. This pivotal event of forgiveness might not only have unlocked Dyer’s potential as a writer  but may have been necessary not to let the urge to mentor other people become a self-serving compensation for emotional and psychological issues; which would also be known as the rescuer syndrome .
Holistic leadership: inspirational motivation, trust, and loving service
Like Einstein and Emerson, Wayne Dyer believed in the Transcendentalist ideas  of the human soul being able to intuitively connect to the spiritual truth that creates a collective consciousness , itself capable of reconstructing the world . Wishing to lead a God-realized life  and occasionally named a self-help guru  and pied piper of the movement , Dyer could be suspect of suffering self-perceptions of grandiosity . However, Dyer believed, and that’s the position of equality that might have been so appealing to his diverse readers, that the divine realm is available to all . Such an uplifting vision is inspirationally motivating and contributes to a new-genre leadership style that emphasizes an environment of trust and feelings beyond what is necessarily found in transformational leadership . Dyer may be an example of one of the newest leadership theories, that is authentic leadership, and which is true to its values . As a friendly, amiable, assertive, and serving ‘soft leader’ , Dr. Wayne W. Dyer lived the messages he taught . It is loving service and unselfish love that makes holistic leadership .
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Loved Wayne Dyer…just recently watched a documentary that he was in about his experience in past-life regression. Definitely got me thinking…
Thanks a lot for your stimulating comment. Yes! As we got everything from the universal source, as we come directly from and go to the “world behind birth and death,” why shouldn’t it be possible to get knowledge and memories of it too?!
I think we do get knowledge and memories of it when we’re children — I certainly remember strong deja vu back then — but as we age and become programmed by society and society’s expectations for us, that we forget who and what we are and where we came from. I, for one, would like to remember 🙂
Good point. I agree, remembering and unlearning help us to re-connect again. I wish you all success in that!
Love this guy. 🙂
I thought so:-).
You know me pretty well. 😀 Wayne Dyer was an amazing, wise and compassionate person. We can all learn from his wisdom.
Thank you for your comment! I also care, because you have such an informed and strong opinion on justice!
Unfortunately, telling people the truth evokes often resistance, and I wish us no unnecessary hardship just because we may not always be willing to play the ‘mean’ game. Dyer was a master in pointing to social issues on an enough high level that he was not perceived to be a political opponent to anybody, which helped him to come through with his message of compassion and humility to hundreds of millions. He contributed a lot to a shift in mindset, although I wished he would have used his power maybe in politics too to make an even more significant impact.
Yes, indeed a fantastic soul who lived among us. Those who accused him of plagiarism, definitely didn’t understand the important messages/wisdom he shared.
I agree. It should not be about copyrights as the goal of these messages is to be spread. I hope there is no license fee on the concept of peace;-).