Chief Engagement Officer at

Cristina Jones is an intentional storyteller with a focus on action, impact, and culture. As Chief Engagement Officer at, Cristina and her team use world-class storytelling to reach new audiences, spotlighting as the technology platform built to power purpose. 

In this episode Cristina defines what “action leadership” is, and the obligation as a leader— at any level— to make room for every voice, and that you don’t have to change who you are in order to be an effective leader. 

Check out all things Dia Bondi here.

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Cristina Jones is an intentional storyteller with a focus on action, impact, and culture. As Chief Engagement Officer at, Cristina and her team use world-class storytelling to reach new audiences, spotlighting as the technology platform built to power purpose. 

In this episode Cristina defines what “action leadership” is, and the obligation as a leader— at any level— to make room for every voice, and that you don’t have to change who you are in order to be an effective leader. 

What I loved most about this episode is when Cristina describes what it means to make space for “soul work” and joy inside of the work you do every day. 

Cristina believes that when people and communities thrive, business thrives. Her team integrates customer advocacy, media partnerships, and influencer strategies to build lasting relationships. In 2020, Cristina was named to the Ebony Power 100, and was featured in the World Woman Foundation’s #ShesMyHero campaign.

Find Cristina here on LinkedIn and here on Twitter. 

Check out all things Dia Bondi here.

Dia Bondi  0:19  
Hi everyone, this has lead with who you are. I'm Dia Bondi, and on this show, we explore and discover what it truly means to Lead With Who You Are, and we're doing it with people who embody just that. In this episode today, we're talking with Cristina Jones about "action leadership" and your obligation as a leader at any level, to make room for others and other voices. Now, Cristina Jones is a woman who absolutely knows who she is, and she gives us all permission to connect who we are with the work we do. Let's get into it.

Dia Bondi  0:53  
Hey, just a quick reminder, you can subscribe to this show on your podcast platform of choice. We're live nearly everywhere and you can always listen to the if there's a leader or innovator in your life, who is it their shiniest when they lead with who they truly are, Please share the show with them. And rate subscribe, and leave us a review makes a huge difference in the reach that the show has when you let everyone else know what you love about the show. Thanks so much.

Dia Bondi  1:26  
So Cristina is an intentional storyteller with a focus on action, impact and culture and as Chief Engagement Officer at Cristina and her team use world-class storytelling to reach new audiences and spotlight As the technology platform built to power purpose, she believes that when people and communities thrive, business thrives, and her team integrates customer advocacy, media partnerships and influencer strategies to build lasting relationships. In 2020. Crristina was named to the Ebony Power 100 and was featured in the World Woman Foundation's #She'sMyHero campaign. Cristina...Welcome.

Dia Bondi  2:13  
Hi, Cristina. Hi. It's so nice to see slash hear you. I mean, I'm seeing you folks listening, we'll be hearing you. But I'm so glad to have you on lead with who you are. Thank you so much for spending time with us today.

Cristina Jones  2:25  
Thank you so much for inviting me.

Dia Bondi  2:27  
So yeah, I have to say when I sent the note out to say like, Hey, would you come be on the show? And you said, Yes, I was like, double do like fist pump moment. You know, you and I met not too long ago and had a chance to do some collaborating. And I just thought that you would be such a fabulous contribution to this to this conversation around what it means to lead with who we are, you know, and I just want to start by we already we've already, you know, we've set up your intro and your bio, but I want to still ask this really sort of fundamental question, which is, you know, how might you answer the question, Who are you?

Cristina Jones  3:05  
That's a layered question, isn't it? Because I like to think that I'm still a work in progress. I'm, I'm a mother. I'm a wife. I'm a daughter, I'm a friend. I'm a gardener. I'm a mini farmer. But I'm also a culture creator. I love culture, and how it creates seismic shifts in our diverse world. I like to think of myself as a brand steward. But if you look at my LinkedIn is going to tell you that I'm the chief engagement And my focus really is being on an intentional storyteller. I like to use my abundance of resources in my work life, to create opportunities that inspire action leadership, not just across my organization, but out in the world. I try to be intentional and greenlighting programs, partnerships, content, that spotlight the challenges that I know, tech and collaboration can solve, like, you know, workforce development, climate change, help. But I also like to use my platform to ensure that I'm sponsoring other people in my orbit so that they too can find success in their careers and transform into action leaders themselves.

Dia Bondi  4:20  
What I love about how you got to this question and also how I experienced you as a leader from the moment that we met, the first time we were on a call together was that that notion of being intentional, and also how elegantly you bridge your own, sort of your own story and values and the the work the job of the work that you do every day no matter what you're engaging with. So how do you so easily it seems so easily bridge, your own voice and the voice of the organization that you work with?

Cristina Jones  4:55  
Thank you, dia, you know, I think first I have to say that the first time we met I was like oh We're gonna be friends. I don't think I've ever answered yes to doing anything as quickly as I have when you reached out about joining you in this conversation,

Dia Bondi  5:10  
I'll take that as a compliment. Thank

Cristina Jones  5:12  
you so much well, because I think you lead with your values and your beliefs as well. And I, I don't think that people understand that they can, you know, I, it took me a while to find my voice. But when I did, there was no turning back. And so I do believe that it is imperative, it's an imperative that you first understand who you are, it helps define your life, not just your career, we spend so much time at work. Why not work on things that we're passionate about? You know, I do work in technology. But even before I was, I was creating platforms, to create space for people to talk about the change, but not to just talk about the change. But to spotlight people who are talking about the change and doing that's my passion. My passion is shining a light on action leaders whose focus is on making the world a better place. I love stories. I'm a storyteller myself, I like to I like to tell stories that drive change. There's so much bad news out in the world. Can we create space to tell some good stories? You know, I recently had the honor of connecting with women and girls at a girl's leadership Gala. And that Gala was focused on finding the power and using your voice, and I'm going to share their definition with you. I know you're gonna love it. Leadership is making others and situations better as a result of your presence and making that impact last in your absence. This work can begin at any age, and doesn't require a title, or a role. I mean, right?

Dia Bondi  7:04  
Yeah, it's beautiful. And I want to get on to talking about this notion of action leadership. But before I do, I want to go back to what you said a minute ago, that's, that is absolutely beautiful. And you said, you said something, I'm forgetting the words exactly right now. But once you find your voice as you can't go back. And, you know, I find that with the leaders that I work with, you know, I work with professional CEOs, as well as Vc backed founders who are CEOs for the very first time and not necessarily because they ascended, but because they put a stake in the ground around building something, and they're learning how to CEO, while they're doing it, they're learning. And, and there is an incredible, there's an incredible power. And once you there's like this thing where finding your voice is about, I noticed is about the content and being clear about what your values and action look like, you know, having developing your own point of view, understanding your platform, but there's an actual experience of the experience of touching your own voice experiencing your own voice in a way that's so aligned to who you are. That is such an overwhelming I literally watch, leaders find it or hear it kind of for the first time. And it's such an compelling experience for them, they can't go back now it is the way in which the aspiration for for for everything, you know, for every way in which they use their voice. So it's always a stretch to try to get back to that and stay aligned with that experience of like, Oh, there I am.

Cristina Jones  8:36  
I'm getting chills as you're talking about it. Because that is the crux of it. It is it is the moment that you understand that not only do you have something to say, when you realize that someone wants to hear it.

Dia Bondi  8:52  
I don't know how you if you experienced this in your own leadership journey, or as you've mentored other leaders in this space, but there's also something about it is so there's a moment where it's like they touch it. And they almost want to back away from it, even though it's exciting and thrilling because it's so powerful and compelling. The question isn't like, you know, can you speak that? It's can you tolerate your own power when you found it? There's like this. You're nodding your head folks can't see you're nodding your head. Nod. Yeah, it's great.

Cristina Jones  9:21  
I'm sitting here like that is that is accurate. And it is powerful. And, and it's necessary, especially if you're going to lead people, you have to lead I almost don't want to use the word authentically. But you have to lead authentically, not in the way that you read someone else's leads, but in the way that is authentic to who you are as a person. Why are you in this role? Why did you start this company? What problem were you trying to solve? What in your past put you on the As path to understanding that there was a problem that needed to solve that you saw an opportunity to fix, like, I think, you know, for me, it's storytelling. You know, for technologists, it's building new technology for entrepreneurs, like, what is the thing but like, but it's not just about the thing that you make. I talk to my teams about this a lot. It's the why,

Dia Bondi  10:25  
yes. And I find that it's what you bring to it. Yeah, what is it that you're bringing to the thing that you're doing? I talk to folks all the time. And I'm like, okay, great. So you're this, you're this see, fill in the blank, but like, I get your job description. But are you? Are you the culture guy? Are you the are you the data woman? Are you the like? Are you the person who is, you know, a champion for color? Are you the collaboration nerd? Like, what is the thing that you're bringing to the challenge that will help unlock the potential in solving that that problem? Now when we now we're kind of leaning into the world of like doing? So I want to, I want to move into this question of like, you've used already, in our conversation, this term action leadership, can you help me understand instead of thought leadership, which is like nomenclature we're very familiar with in our, you know, in our in sort of the business community now, can you talk a little bit about this term action leadership and where it came from? And sort of how you came to naming and claiming that? Yes, absolutely.

Cristina Jones  11:27  
I think that we can all agree that we are tired of thought leadership, I am exhausted by it. I don't want to hear especially with what's going on in the world right now. I don't want to hear it anymore. I don't want to hear about people talking about the things that we should be doing different. I don't want to talk about the change that needs to happen in the world. I don't want to talk about what's happening in climate, I want to hear from people who are driving the change that needs to happen. We all know, after countless years of hearing about, we need to be better about a myriad of things, equality, climate, global health, gun control, but who is actually doing something, to drive the change. I'm tired of people sending up prayers, I want people to do something, we all have the opportunity to do something, if you are working. If you are not working, you can join a group that is doing this you you don't have to just sit back, put your head in the sand and go like well, it just is what it is. Because that's not going to get us to where we need to go.

Dia Bondi  12:36  
So recognizing action leadership standing next to or, you know, cuddling up to storytelling, one is the doing and one is the demonstrating or talking about the doing. So how does one think about storytelling and putting together storytelling and action? In the storytelling? Are you? Are you asking us to spend time pointing and elevating the actions that are happening instead of just lecturing the world?

Cristina Jones  13:05  
Correct. If you have a phone, or access to social media, you are a content creator? If you are a content creator, you are a culture creator. Be intentional with the words that you say, Be intentional with the people that you use your platform to highlight. If you're in marketing, and you're creating content, why would you focus on negativity, why not focus choose to use your platform for good I really have a problem when people have an opportunity to like use their platforms to shine light on positivity and change. And instead they use it for like, at the worse, shining a light on negativity, we don't need any more of that. At the mediocre, it's just using it as the playbook of like, I need to say this, check this check this check that without driving change storytelling is how we've been sharing our history since we were sitting around fires talking, let's use it to create community and change I am maniacal about focusing on what stories that we tell and how we express them. Because there's one other piece you need to be careful when you have these storytelling platforms, about how you represent people as well.

Dia Bondi  14:29  
So speaking, you just sort of touched on this idea of being a content creator. So you know, you've talked about that, that all marketing and brand leaders should really see or can see themselves you know, and and maybe even must see themselves as content creators. So talk about what that means. You just You just started to but help me understand what what that really means.

Cristina Jones  14:56  
Let's start with the fact that when you're telling a story have communities, maybe that don't look like you be mindful of the way that you tell that story. You know, the solve a quick solve for that is to make sure that you have an inclusive team, right? So that you don't step in it, you know, canceled culture is real. Unfortunately, I don't love canceled culture, it creates, it prevents space for people to grow. It also prevents people from having real conversations where you understand what they're actually thinking, so that maybe you can change your mindset. But moving away from that, I think that you need to be intentional in the way that you tell the story. Technology's not saving black people, black people are saving themselves by understanding how to leverage technology. You know,

Dia Bondi  15:44  
there are that really shifts, right? Like that's a shift of the where the locus of control is, or where the power exactly,

Cristina Jones  15:51  
at the end of every tool is a human? Can we lean into the human story? You know, technology can be an accelerator I work at, you know,, we create purpose built products that are our communities, our customers, who are all action leaders trying to solve the world's biggest problems, us. But our customers are the action leaders, not our technology. And so just reframing that,

Dia Bondi  16:19  
so we use the definition you shared earlier around leadership for the women and girls event that you attended early earlier this month. And we think about people who are not maybe ordained leaders don't have the title or the, you know, the decision making power directly, but have the opportunity to have an impact around a table when a story is being crafted when a story is being assembled when a story is being you know, born. How do how do folks? So this wasn't a question I was planning on asking, but like, how does a person at the Where does someone start? When do they start thinking myself as content creators, even if their name isn't on the credits? Is that Is that a good question? No, it's

Cristina Jones  17:04  
not a goofy quiz. I, you're gonna tap into like my other passion point. I believe that when you end up having a seat at the table, I'm gonna say something a little controversial. But you already know me. Yes, hurricane? Yes. Hey, earthquake, so. So surely, Chisholm would no longer be satisfied with a folding chair. Right? I believe that when you are offered a seat at the table, you need to make sure it's a real seat at the table. And when you do that, you need to be mindful and ensure that you are pulling up a whole bunch more seats at the table. When people don't do that, it is generally coming from a scarcity mindset. It means I made it to this table, and I'm the only voice that matters, and no one else can be at this table. When you come from an abundance mindset, it means that the more chairs that you pull up, the more opportunity you're creating, the more voices that you're hearing from. And so like, I go around, I I'm, I'm hyper focused on making sure that the teams that I work with, have career growth, and understand the path to success for them in their specific career. But I also don't really care what their title is, when I'm asking for advice or inputs, or thoughts. You know, I love brainstorming. In technology, it's taken a while for my teams to some somewhat understand what brainstorming is because they go straight to action sometimes, but sometimes, it's okay,

Dia Bondi  18:49  
everyone listening, this is from the action leadership lady, just saying she's like, it's not all about action all the time, there's a moment for something else

Cristina Jones  18:56  
active listening. Active listening, means that you don't, you know, pull up a whiteboard, just so that people can listen to you talk. And all agree until you that you're amazing. It means that you pull up a whiteboard and you hear from everyone, and you're vulnerable enough and create space for people to have an authentic conversation and, and disagree with you. The first idea is very rarely the best ideas, you know,

Dia Bondi  19:23  
well, I hear that also is imagining, imagining, you know, a room where there's walls and walls of whiteboards and, and, you know, a full round table with people from early career to senior leadership, you know, who are the you who have their names on the on the jobs, right? That, that what that also means if you see yourself early in your career Early in your leadership, as a as a contributor, and as a content creator, even if it's not you create income contend in a silo and away from everybody, but as a contributor to the stories that are being told that you have a responsibility, or I don't know, if it's a responsibility, I'm curious if that's how you see it, to share your perspective as a way to round out and make more complete the story that your team is telling.

Cristina Jones  20:20  
Yes. Like, I mean, that we sorry, like, I'm using my hands, that's the Italian is my like I, the best stories are the stories that are told together. The best stories are stories that come from, you know, having, again, an inclusive team, you know, there was this some poor critic said something crazy about turning red. And shame on him for saying that, you know, that beautiful, animated film was too narrow and restrictive, and people didn't get it. But I wonder if that story would have made it all the way through to posting, if he surrounded himself with more people that don't look like himself coming from media, I can tell you that the best stories that travel are the global stories. And I think that, you know, when you start with storytelling, it starts with, am I serving the audience that I want to reach? am I serving the business need? But also, am I inspiring others? Am I inspiring others? Am I creating space for others? And if you're talking about someone that doesn't look like you, dia, are you telling a story in a way that you would feel proud to be represented?

Dia Bondi  21:42  
So we talked about, you know, action leadership, we talked a little bit about, you know, this idea of what it means to be to take on the responsibility or to to see yourself as a content creator. And, you know, I talk a lot in my work around about, you know, speaking courageously, and what it means to speak courageously in a way that is aligned to who you actually are. And it is not an invitation to be reckless, destructive, confessional, even though it is not. It is not a law, I'm just being honest moment. So how do we think about how to, you know, young leaders that are on their pathway to growing their impact and reach? How do we think about, you know, folks who are already in a position to have huge impact and reach with their voices? You know, that has a lot of sway either because of their, you know, their just explicit role that they're in? And what comes with that, or whether they have a compelled following or not? How do we think about speaking courageously, without being reckless?

Cristina Jones  22:56  
I think that when people speak out of anger, it comes from having their voice suppressed. for a really long time. It's that passive aggressive thing. As you know, I'm very passionate about quite a few topics. And I'm not afraid to use my voice when something is wrong. But you know, I have put in the time and have the receipts to show like, how I got there, but I think that we're moving, but that's kind of as I'm saying it like some old school mentality, right? I think that anyone who has a voice or an opinion, should be able to voice it and be heard. I welcome and encourage debate. I, you know, that's how we get better. And we all grow. Like I said, at the top of this, I'm still a work in progress myself, I don't have all the answers, I surround myself with very smart people, both on my team, my friends, the new friends that I engage with, stay curious. But arguing comes from when I think that you get so enraged, it comes out with rage. And when you're yelling, people turn off. And so if you're trying to get something across, staying calm. And I hate to say this, taking the emotion out of it, because I'm a black woman. And so, you know, I've had supervisors in the past who use passion as a negative. And when you're black, in corporate or anywhere, you run the risk of being an angry black woman. And that's just a fallacy. You know, some people can say something and it can be received in a way and other people receive it in a different way. Again, I encourage people to get outside of their silos and connect with other people so that we can get rid of that. But but you need to you need to really be in like What is upsetting you, and then come back with a solution? Because just raging at the machine without a solution does not solve anything.

Dia Bondi  25:08  
Does that bring us back to actual leadership? Correct?

Cristina Jones  25:11  
It always brings us back to actually

Dia Bondi  25:13  
close the loop. So so can we just stay on this point a little bit around, you know, you di, D, charging something that's really important. So that I heard you say, so that you're not labeled as the angry black woman? Does that? Does that mean that your experience is that you cannot be you cannot have rage? Or does it mean that you have to express rage in a very particular way? Does it get to be present? Do you get to be mad,

Cristina Jones  25:43  
I definitely get to be mad. And at some point, because the you know, me, I'm very joyful. But some things make me angry. And when things make me angry, I reserve the right to express myself. And if you want to have the skills and tools that I bring to the job every day, then you need to create space for that. I'm never disrespectful. I'm never, you know, irate. I'm not a screamer. But I am direct in the things that bother me. Especially because in the space that I'm in, I want to make sure that I'm not creating space. I'm not going to cause for not you can, I'm not going to create space for bullshit. I'm not going to create space for people to leverage the platforms that are out there. To give permission to people to be assholes.

Dia Bondi  26:45  
I hear this interesting tension around around letting ourselves letting ourselves and you saying yes, I'm allowed to be mad, and I can get mad. But how do I do that? In a way? How do I show up in a way that lets that be present? Without destroying something, you need

Cristina Jones  27:03  
to create space for conversation and the conversation doesn't end until you both either agree or agree to disagree. But there needs to be a conversation you need to get. I'm a builder of things. I like to launch new areas grow. You need to be comfortable with conflict in those spaces, right? But you need to be okay with if someone says no. And you know that that's wrong. You need to feel comfortable enough to go back. Respectfully.

Dia Bondi  27:37  
I hear so much skillfulness. And this and as we kind of come to the close of our conversation, I know you're thinking about it, folks are listening to this, again, I'm gonna go back to this early in their careers, sort of state folks who are aspiring to be in the role that you are in Christina women and other leaders looking to be in a place where they can have massive reach and massive impact. The the if you were to name a what skills? That sounds very transactional, maybe it is but you're talking about this in a way with a certain level of skillfulness and sophistication. What are the what are the two or three skills that leaders early in their careers can go get that helps them speak courageously without being reckless,

Cristina Jones  28:22  
I think that you need to be informed about the topics that you care about, like become a master of your space. And you do by you know, being a lifelong learner. I know that sounds trite, but you don't just graduate from college and start working. And that that's it. I think that you start building a community. You know, like, have these conversations not just in your head but amongst your friends. And find someone that you respect. And, you know, I think mentorship sponsorship, those are two very different things. You know, a mentor is someone who helps you understand how to have the courageous conversations. A sponsor is the person in the room who understands what it is that you are trying to accomplish. And you know, puts their neck out there so that you can get that opportunity. Get yourself a mentor early. And mentors don't always have to be up. Yes, be lateral. I'm still learning I learned from people in my own teams. You know what I mean? It's

Dia Bondi  29:31  
Dr. Stacy Blackbeard talks about reverse mentorship, even like generationally the other way so I might be as I am, you know, scraping at 50 and finding mentors who are in their 20s that can help me as you say, become a master in my in my domain.

Cristina Jones  29:47  
Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. And everybody. Like it's like if, if you're a woman, you don't only need a woman mentor. If you're a man, you don't only need a man. If you're black. It doesn't have like just fine A person who is doing the work that you respect and connect with them.

Dia Bondi  30:04  
So I hear your answers around what skills do we need to get to be able to be be later, you know, be able to have the capacity to speak courageously without being reckless, I heard you say, these are more like pursuits, to become a master in your own space until, and I hear curiosity in there and sort of insatiable learning to to, you know, gather a community to invest in community around you, and to find the mentors and sponsored sponsors that will help you be smart and maybe grow into your potential

Cristina Jones  30:40  
1,000%. And as you advance in your career, make sure that you pull up those chairs so that you're not the only one in the room.

Dia Bondi  30:49  
Cristina, what does it mean to you, in a few sentences to lead with who you are,

Cristina Jones  30:54  
I think I, I have been myself for so long. It took me a while to understand that. It was okay to be who I was. But also that I did not only have to be one thing, I didn't have to be something that I was not in order to become a leader. The only way I know how to be is to be Cristina. I don't know how to be any other way anymore. And what I hope is that I'm not the only one like that. I hope that I create space so that the people that I work with feel the same way that they can be just authentically themselves not leaving pieces of themselves at home. But like come to work and feel joyful because they're doing meaningful work. That that that that my friend Emma calls it soul work. There's space for that. And there's space to be yourself.

Dia Bondi  31:52  
Cristina, thank you so much for being with us on leave with who you are. It's just such a I am so compelled by you. Thank you and I hope our listeners are compelled as well. Where can folks find you and find your work?

Cristina Jones  32:05  
On my LinkedIn page? Cristina Jones on my Twitter handle Cristina M. Jones on your podcast

Dia Bondi  32:18  

Cristina Jones  32:19  
Thank you for inviting me. It's thanks joy as always to talk to you dia love it.

Dia Bondi  32:24  
See around hurricanes. Lead With Who You Are is a production of Dia Bondi communications scored, mixed and produced by Arthur Leon Adams, the third and executive produced by Mandy Miranda. You can reach out to us at or leave us a voicemail at 341-333-2997 you can like rate, share and subscribe at Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your favorite podcasts. Go to for shownotes and to learn about all it is that we do to help you speak powerfully and lead with who you are

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