Better Leadership: “I’m Dada”

Raymond PortenBlog, Connect Better, Lead Better, Reflect Better


  • The image you present and who others see may not correspond with who you want to be.
  • Reflecting on yourself and asking others for feedback can help you become the individual you want others to see. You need to be open to criticism and ready to make the changes.
  • Be intentional and consistent so you can portray who you want to be to everyone.

Better Leadership: “I’m Dada”

So as I started this blog series, I began reflecting on different events or interactions with my boys over the years.  I was reminded about one of the biggest “gut punches” I had taken as a parent.  When my oldest son was about 3 years old, my wife sent me a video of him pretending he was me.  He was walking around the house with sunglasses on, a cell phone, and his head up in the air.  He was talking with very stern, direct comments. 

As a leader, at home or at school, I need to decide who I want to be and intentionally be that person all the time. Click To Tweet

Although he was really cute, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “That is how he sees me.”  That thought completely scared me and made me change immediately.  I changed so when I was home I was more focused on my family and how my boys saw me.  At the time, I was able to learn a lesson about being present at home for my family.  But as I was reflecting about that now for this blog, I realized there’s more I can learn and apply.

What Is the Image I Am Giving Off?

Looking back at that situation, another lesson I can learn and I can apply to my leadership is being aware of how my staff, students, and parents see me.  What is the image I am giving off?  Who am I in their eyes?  I thought I was being present at home.  I thought I was caring.  And I thought I was loving toward my family. 

While I may have been, that wasn’t what my son’s impersonation of me was.  His vision of me was my head up in the air like I thought I was important, my short direct answers, and me marching around the house.  That was how he saw me.  Because that was who I was to him.  Just as he saw me a certain way, I am sure others see me through their lenses, through their own perspectives.  I started to think, “Am I who I want to be in other people’s eyes?”  

How Do I Know Who Others See When They See Me?

As a leader, who do others see when they see me?  That can be a hard question to answer for multiple reasons. 

First, do I even know who they see?  In the case of my son, I was able to see him act out an impersonation of me.  That doesn’t often happen where I can see it here at school.  I need to make sure I am asking and trying to always be aware of who I am to others. 

Next, this means I have to have trust with those I lead.  They need to know they can be honest with me when I ask who I am to them. 

Finally, I have to be willing to hear what they say and not be offended, write it off,  or try to justify it.  I need to hear what they are saying and take it to heart, reflect, and make sure it is who I want to be.  

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Better Leadership: I Need To Be Intentional

As a leader, it is my responsibility to be intentional so I am who I want my staff to see me as.  I need to make sure my actions, decisions, and words match who I want to be.  I need to be consistent so they always see the same person standing in front of them.  As a leader, at home or at school,  I need to decide who I want to be and intentionally be that person all the time. Because my family, staff, students, and families all deserve to have that person. 

About Raymond Porten

Raymond Porten is a husband to an AMAZING wife, 2 wonderful boys, a principal of an elementary school in northern Illinois, and a Golden Apple Scholar. He spends his free time traveling with his family and cooking with his boys. In addition, he finds the time to co-host 2 podcasts. He’s been in education for 20 years and has worked as a 5th grade teacher, middle school dean, 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher, middle school assistant principal and now as a principal. He believes in the importance of building relationships and of taking every opportunity to lead and make a difference in the world.