Cristina Killingsworth was the Senior Advisor to the CEO at Millennium Challenge Corporate, advising on strategies to deliver smarter foreign assistance. She was also the Director of Strategic Planning & Director for African Affairs for the White House National Security Council Staff during the Obama Administration. Today, Cristina is the Vice President of WestExec Advisors.
Cristina Killingsworth most recently served as Senior Advisor to the CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, advising on strategies to deliver smarter foreign assistance. Prior, Cristina was Director for Strategic Planning at the White House National Security Council where she developed a policy process to optimize resource allocation across the national security budget. She then served as Director for African Affairs at the NSC and managed President Obama’s historic trip to Kenya and Ethiopia.
Previously, she was in the International Affairs Division of the White House Office of Management and Budget where she ensured the President’s policy priorities were appropriately resourced in areas related to trade, global health, the war in Afghanistan, and global poverty reduction.
On The Leadership Podcast, Cristina discusses the complex challenges Africa is facing today, her political experiences regarding high-level decision-making.
[3:50] Cristina shares some of the complex challenges she faced as the Senior Advisor to the CEO at the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
[9:15] The name of the game is to get buy-in from different stakeholder groups to advance the company’s main mission.
[9:30] In order to succeed in doing this, you have to give people the opportunity to feel heard.
[12:55] Unfortunately, the scandal is more interesting than the success story.
[14:10] Cristina notes the tough, but similar, challenges both Africa and the Western world are facing today.
[19:40] Cristina doesn’t believe the U.S. can come into a different culture and “make it better.” However, there are always opportunities to kickstart an economy in the right direction.
[20:25] When the Chinese came in to “help,” the locals knew that it was because they really just wanted something.
[24:05] Cristina was faced with uncertain times when she was at MCC. She didn’t know if the organization would continue to be funded. As a leader, she had to remain calm and collected.
[27:50] Cristina shares what’s next for her in her career. She’s not done with public service just yet!
[31:30] Ageism is very real in the corporate world and very few organizations have been able to adjust against this bias.
[31:50] WestExec hosts a mentorship program to help diversify the national security field and it’s been rewarding to see that new learnings are going in both directions and it does not just benefit the mentees.
[33:35] Cristina shares an impactful leadership story she witnessed in the Obama administration.
[35:15] Leadership is a constant deliberate decision that you have to make.
[36:50] As people, we all have shortcomings, but a good leader knows how important it is to trust yourself and to trust your team.
[39:25] Listener challenge: Trust yourself.