Dancing in the Rain: Leading with Compassion, Vitality, and Mindfulness in Education. (2016). Book by Jerome T. Murphy. Review by Susan Taffe Reed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. 264pp. $31.00 (Paperback) ISBN 978-1-61250-962-4 http://hepg.org/hep-home/books/dancing-in-the-rain




Book by: Jerome T. Murphy

Review by: Susan Taffe Reed

Undergraduate Deans Office

Dartmouth College


In Dancing in the Rain: Leading with Compassion, Vitality, and Mindfulness in Education (2016), Dr. Jerome Murphy addressed the substantial gap in literature geared toward teaching educators about the inner life of leaders. He addressed the subject with candor as he told stories of real experiences—good and bad—from over the course of his lengthy career. Murphy, the Harold Howe II Professor of Education Emeritus and former dean at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, provided a set of tools that will enhance vitality, energy, and passion in our careers. In embracing self-compassion and kindness toward ourselves, student affairs professionals will be more present, focused, and empathetic. Skilled practices that improve mindset are a worthwhile investment, resulting in more dynamic engagement with our students.

Although written primarily for high-level administrators, academic advisors who want to develop authenticity in their advising and sharpen their leadership skills will find immense value in this insightful book. Murphy’s humorous analogies will help advisors greet challenging circumstances in new ways. Through the course of about three dozen exercises, he taught skills that can be implemented to “cultivate inner strengths directly tied to the effectiveness of leaders: clear thinking, focused attention, steadiness under fire, resilience, and a broad perspective” (p. 8). In difficult situations, it is common to become overwhelmed by unease, falling into paralyzing habits that Murphy calls “self-defeating habits of the mind” or the “three Rs”—resisting, ruminating, and rebuking (p. 25), all of which can be destructive to personal and professional life, not to mention emotional and physical health.

Murphy presented a framework of seven practical steps that can be remembered by the acronym MY DANCE. Readers can personalize this approach to their own needs, allowing them to draw on strengths, while bolstering more challenging areas.

  • Mind your values
  • Yield to now
  • Disentangle from upsets
  • Allow unease
  • Nourish yourself
  • Cherish self-compassion
  • Express feelings wisely

The exercises provided will assist academic advisors to discover their core values and bring them to the forefront in what Murphy calls "values-inspired action” or VIA (p. 72). Through the use of mindfulness and various methods, this book will help advisors stay rooted in the present, act with intentionality, manage discontent, take things less personally, and let go of resistance (p. 81, 101, 123). A background in mindfulness practices is not needed as this book provides an easy introduction to their application. To boost resilience, leaders can restore energy with activities that leave them feeling renewed and focused on the positive (p. 145, 169). “Self-compassion is a hard sell because it contradicts what many of us have been taught since childhood about how to make it in our highly competitive world” (180), wrote Murphy, who debunked the idea that self-compassion will make us lose our edge; instead, he argued that it can make us healthier and better professionals (182-4).

The exercises in this incredible resource will transform the way academic advisors react to stressful situations with students and colleagues. As with learning any new skill, it takes practice to restructure mental habits. Whether read through from cover to cover or with pause to practice each exercise, academic advisors can use this resource to increase their effectiveness, anchor their actions in values, and sustain positive energy. This book is a call for further scholarship and mentorship on intentionality, positivity, and mindfulness, all of which can enhance leadership for education professionals.


Murphy, Jerome T. (2016) Dancing in the Rain: Leading with Compassion, Vitality, and Mindfulness in Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press

[Harvard Education]. (2016, Oct. 17). Dancing in the Rain: Leading with Compassion, Vitality, and Mindfulness in Education [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FJvKTznY8A

Posted in: 2017 Book Reviews
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