Life coach teaches grow-as-you-go leadership skills

By Dwight Hobbes

Contributing Writer


Highly charismatic motivational speaker and leadership trainer Mary Jo Winston, PhD, is perfectly suited to her line of work. Inspirational? The very air seems to come alive around her. She certainly, completely commanded everyone’s attention at the Royal Red Hat Sabathanettes induction ceremony in April with an engaging smile, ready humor and confident, conversational style.

Winston compelled with the same energetic warmth in a telephone interview for the MSR. Indeed, she approaches her livelihood with down-to-earth professionalism.

Founding executive director at Bridges of Hope (, she says of having established the organization in 2004, “I looked at how people have a desire to be leaders, but they needed a little empowerment within themselves to be able to really function and operate [effectively].”

Mary Jo Winston, PhD Photo courtesy of Bridges of Hope
Mary Jo Winston, PhD
Photo courtesy of
Bridges of Hope

She considered herself to be in the same boat and figured she’d adopt a grow-as-you-go approach. “I just had a drive to want to help people in the area of leadership,” she says, and taught others how to lead while learning how to do it herself.

“I looked at our country and saw where our country was struggling with leadership,” she explains. “I saw as I was coming more in tune with the community, it felt like I wanted to help people be empowered and be greater leaders.”

What, in her estimation, was wrong with America? “People in leadership [positions] were not effective. They had issues with integrity and with their standards. I felt, like, uh-oh. We’re in trouble. Congressmen, even community leaders, people that you should be able to trust, you saw [them] compromising. [Citizens] were being led blindly in the wrong direction.”

That she recalls was during the era of the second George Bush’s presidency. “I saw so much when it came to the wars, when it came to the community, to institutions, welfare systems. I said, ‘Wait a minute, these are the policy makers. What in the world is going on?’”

She feels a bit better about how things are going under the present administration, on Barack Obama’s watch. “From what I’ve seen with unemployment, there’ve been more workers employed since he’s been president. Not as many as we would want, but there’s growth. That’s what’s important. It’s showing that [Obama] must be doing pretty good.”

Who would she like to see succeed him as president? “Somebody with a heart for the people!” she emphatically states. “A lot of congressmen are millionaires. No wonder the unemployment rate is still high. And they haven’t passed a bill to extend unemployment benefits.

“They don’t have to worry about being unemployed,” she continues. “They don’t have a heart for the people. We need somebody who does.”

Dr. Winston has, herself, shown that very quality in her professional endeavors, consistently working to put her labors where her mouth is and help empower others. A partial listing from her curriculum vitae includes life skills coach consultant for Turning Point, Inc., women’s support consultant at New Foundations Inc. and family development specialist for Amherst Wilder Foundation, as well as nearly 30 years — 27 hands-on — experience in social services and human services.

For good measure she was honored as YWCA Woman of the Year and is featured in a You Tube video by the American Cancer Society website on the importance of African American women getting annual mammograms. In the position of chemical health clinician at Washburn Child Guidance Center, Winston’s supportive scope took in parents’ chemical dependency issues as well as the impact their problems had on their children.

“I dealt with the fathers, the mothers, the kids. You have to care about the family as a whole. I’m now a certified life coach, but, even back then I was coaching at life.”

Clearly, it’s something that comes natural and at which Mary Jo Winston inherently is adept. “I love every bit of it, every day of it.” Not hard to believe.

Winston thrives on being around and interacting with people. Ask anyone who attended the Royal Red Hat Sabathanettes inductions. From the moment she took the microphone until she was done, she completely engaged her raptly attentive audience and clearly enjoyed them just as much as they enjoyed her.

Its website says Bridges of Hope is dedicated to “leadership training and education with tools to encourage and empower the human spirit to come alive and lead with resiliency, perseverance, integrity, dedication and responsibility.” Sounds like the right person is at the helm with the esteemed and inestimable Dr. Mary Jo Winston.


Visit Bridges of Hope’s website at

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403. 

To see more stories by Dwight Hobbes stories click HERE