Cristina Padilla, PhD
Sr. Director, Coaching Services


“Leadership is not defined by the industry you serve, but by the ability to adapt, build relationships and communicate effectively across diverse landscapes.”

In her role as Sr. Director of Coaching Services, Cristina is responsible for Nebo’s coaching operations including coach matching, recruitment and evaluation. She brings over a decade of professional experience in the field of leadership development, including serving in key leadership roles in coaching and international program development. With over twenty years professional experience in various industries, Cristina has gleaned that building strong relationships and adaptability are key to leading and thriving in dynamic work environments.

Cristina is an ICF-trained and certified coach with a focus on culturally-relevant leadership coaching. She specializes in and particularly enjoys supporting emerging leaders of color to develop their leader identity, and coaching senior leaders to foster diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in their teams and organizations. 

Cristina has a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego (USD). Her dissertation focused on Latina leader identity development and her broader research agenda encompasses culturally relevant leadership training for Latinas, including the creation of a game-based leadership development workshop “El Rio de Dichos.” She has first-authored publications in peer-reviewed journals from her scholarship on culturally relevant leadership development programs for Latinos. Cristina has taught at the graduate and undergraduate level.

People who closely work with Cristina enjoy her quick wit, her warmth and genuine curiosity about other people. Her best qualities are her positivity, intellectual rigor and her ability to simplify complexity.

Professional Experience

  • 20+ years of leadership experience in the non-profit, corporate and public sector arenas.
  • 10+ years of experience in the field of leadership development, including overseeing coach networks and leading large-scale, international leadership development programs.
  • 6+ years of experience as adjunct faculty teaching leadership at graduate and undergraduate levels.
  • Native Spanish speaker who has lived and worked in Latin America.


  • Doctorate in Leadership Studies (University of San Diego)
  • Masters in Politics, Economics and Business (Claremont Graduate University)
  • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Minor in Latin American Studies (California State University, Fullerton)
  • Leadership Coaching Certification (University of San Diego)
  • International Coaching Federation Associate Certified Coach (ACC)


  • Lives in San Diego, California with her son and daughter where she enjoys art, reading, traveling and jogging.
  • Volunteers as a Steering Committee member for the Latina Success Leadership Program for MANA de San Diego, an amazing local Latina advocacy nonprofit organization.

Learn more about Nebo’s services.