“I struggled with meeting people’s expectations,” admits Sam Ariyo. “I thought I was doing my best – I was human enough, I was friendly enough, but there was this piece that was missing from my leadership role.”
Leaders, such as the 2020 Victoria Community Leadership Award winner, Sam Ariyo, frequently strive to improve their leadership abilities. “I wanted to see what I was doing wrong,” explains Ariyo. “I wanted to see if there was a way I could be of help to those who were not really getting along with my style, with the way I do things.” Inspired to become a better leader, Ariyo set a goal for himself to complete a leadership program.
This is how he did it: first, Ariyo reached out to his program director at Community Living Victoria, where he worked. This led Ariyo to a conversation with Community Living’s HR Director, who recommended Leadership Victoria. Ariyo applied to the Leadership Development Program and became a beneficiary of one of the programs’ sponsors. “Without them, I would still be saving up for the program,” says Ariyo.
Ariyo’s first impression of the program was that it would be a “walk in the park.” Then the assignments started coming due. Ariyo quickly realized that, in order to complete the work, he needed stay up late into the night. He was also supported by his coworkers, who helped him find time to dedicate to studying. The assignments sparked an interest in Ariyo and he began to do additional research, to understand the theoretical background of the concepts.
Ariyo’s participation in the Leadership Victoria Program transformed his leadership at work. Many of Ariyo’s colleagues at Community Living Victoria have been working there for longer than him. However, after completing the leadership program, Ariyo realized he “could actually harness their skills, their influence, to further [his] goals as a leader.” Ariyo adds that, “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and I see that I need more coaching to make it work. But all of a sudden, it’s open to me now – I know what to do when things don’t go well.”
Participating in the Community Leadership Development Program helped Ariyo grow as a leader, but the ability to lead emerged from his childhood in Nigeria. Ariyo’s father, a missionary, was a central figure in his early life, and instilled him with a strong sense of responsibility. Ariyo also had other influencers in his youth. He recalls one teacher who often assigned him additional reading. “He would constantly challenge me to live up to the expectations that he had of me,” says Ariyo. “He made me see that I could be of more value than I was.” This extra learning and encouragement added to Ariyo’s sense of responsibility.
Then, at age eighteen, Ariyo had his first leadership experience. He took a job leading sixty volunteers who were helping widows and orphans. Most of the volunteers were older than Ariyo and many even had children who were older than him. When Ariyo began this job, he had already earned a college diploma and was intent on sharing his knowledge. But Ariyo soon realized most of the volunteers knew more than him. “I discovered they were miles ahead of me. It dawned on me that, as a leader, I had to calm down, learn and lead from behind. Leading is not really about showing that you’re in charge. It’s about making people happy to do the job – making people happy to see you at the rally point.” That job served as a base upon which Ariyo built more leadership skills.
These skills are part of Ariyo’s definition of community leadership. “To me, leadership is doing the best that you can to help your community achieve their set goals. Helping others to live up to their expectations and learning from those around you. Not setting yourself above or in front, but in the midst, in the middle of people, to make sure that everybody feels included and everybody is motivated to get the job done.”
Today, Ariyo uses this philosophy in his role as a group home supervisor with Community Living Victoria. Ariyo enjoys helping others live up to expectations and learning from those around them. He ensures everybody feels included and motivated to do their jobs.
Ariyo hopes that, in the future, he can help grow the community. Ariyo also aspires to take on more community leadership responsibilities. Ariyo strives to improve his ability to make sure the people he works with feel comfortable and happy working with him. “I’m hopeful that tomorrow will be better [than] today,” says Ariyo. “I can confidently look forward to taking on more responsibilities. I believe many of my cohort members [at Leadership Victoria] can say the same thing.”
You can learn more about Community Living Victoria by going to their website: