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7 Questions on Leadership with Lily Corley

Name: Lily Corley

Title: Assistant Director of Career Development

Organisation: Lipscomb University

Lily Corley is an entrepreneurial, creative storyteller with nearly a decade of experience in writing and public speaking. She is the Assistant Director of the Lipscomb University Career Development Center, where she helps equip students and alumni to step into their brightest futures while spearheading departmental communication strategies. She is also the founder and CEO of Bespoke Expressions, a speech writing, editing, and consulting agency that specializes in content for weddings and funerals. Lily holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from Lipscomb University. She resides in Nashville, TN but is proud to be a Knoxville girl at heart.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Lily's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

One of the most difficult challenges for me was learning how to communicate expectations to others while also embracing the fact that they approach work differently than I do. It requires constant mindfulness to keep everyone on track while also encouraging creative freedom and autonomy.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I would organize my leadership experience into two categories: Leading Students and Shifting Mindsets.

Student leadership has been a part of my life for many years. In high school, this looked like serving on student advisory committees, helping out backstage at the children’s theater, and mentoring younger girls in my youth choir. However, the most pivotal student leadership role I held was in college, as a New Student Orientation and Quest Team leader at Lipscomb. I enjoyed welcoming new students to campus, facilitating small groups, and planning welcome week activities. I found joy in serving young adults. Through that role, I formed connections with Lipscomb faculty and staff. When I graduated and heard about the position in the Career Development Center, I wanted to keep pouring into the student body for which I already cared deeply.

I have found, however, that leadership is more about influence than job title. Even as a teenager, I was passionate about using the platform my speech and debate competitions provided to challenge the cultural attitudes I saw around me. As an entrepreneur, I have dared to believe that new ideas can shift the market and change the way people think. I believe in using business innovation to solve human problems. I will continue using my gifts to lead others into love and freedom as long as I have on this earth.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I begin my day with a prayer. Then, I usually read a passage of Scripture or go on a quick walk around the neighborhood. I prepare for work at Lipscomb, which is from 8am-4:30pm. When I get off of work, I either run errands or meet up with a friend to ensure I have frequent quality time with my closest circle.

I work on Bespoke Expressions tasks during the evening and for extended periods of time over the weekend. I love to unwind at the end of the day by reading or journaling.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

When I was in college, I read a book called The Student Leadership Challenge by Barry Posner and James Kouzes. One of their key points is that servant leaders do not lead with the objective of gaining power. They lead with the objective of giving power away and building up new leaders. As I continue to work in positions where I get to coach others toward their potential, I think of that often.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

Deep Work by Cal Newport is an immensely helpful book for maximizing creativity and productivity. As someone who has always liked having time to work on projects alone and without distractions, I felt validated by the concept of "deep work." The book discusses the importance of creating space for serendipitous encounters, collaboration, and extended periods of solitude in the workplace. The idea of blocking out times for uninterrupted deep work impacts how I structure my own day and will guide the cultures I create as I lead larger teams throughout my career. I am currently reading Gutsy by Natalie Franke, which is also thrilling and inspiring thus far. The book discusses courageous decision-making.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Popularity is not the same thing as leadership. Sadly, there are a lot of people in this world who use status to hide their insecurities. You are valuable and worthy whether you hold impressive position or not, and you will change far more lives with kindness and discernment than you will chasing accolades.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

About a year ago, I received a note from a student saying that she was better able to love and lead others because of my example, and that seeing me around campus when she transferred to Lipscomb was a comfort and encouragement. Before I read the note, I did not feel like I had done anything exceptional for her. Her words were a reminder that simply caring for people and taking the time to connect can change their whole experience of a place and have a ripple effect on the environment around them.

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