Leadership Spotlight on Marline Francois
Each week the NAAHP highlights individuals who are making a difference in their communities as well as the business world. Marline Francois Madden is a private practice clinical therapist, Huffington Post contributor, phenomenal public speaker, and entrepreneur. With over 13 years of clinical experience, she has become a sought-after expert in mental health, trauma, self-care, and girls leadership.
Marline has shared her expertise at dozens of universities, colleges, community organizations, churches and conferences — including the Congressional Black Caucus for Women and Girls. Her organization, Far More Precious, has awarded $2,500 in scholarships to minority girls since 2013 and continues to educate young women ages 14 – 19 to dream beyond the barriers they face to reach their fullest potential.
Empowerment isn’t what she does, it’s who she is.
10 Questions for Marline Francois
Dominique Elkind, NAAHP: Tell us a bit about your personal background.
Marline Francois: I am a Haitian-American who was born and raised in New Jersey in a Pentecostal household. My upbringing was focused on education, church and classical piano. My parents enrolled me in a small Christian private school which pushed me to become competitive with my academics in my primary and secondary education. At a young age, my dad would always talk to me about going to college. I remember at 13 years old, my dad came home with a book on psychology which left me intrigued. It was at that very moment that I fell in love with psychology and therapy. As the oldest and only daughter, it was important for me to be a role model to my two younger brothers. I was also an extrovert growing up, so I enjoyed making friends which led me to learn how to network in my adult years.
NAAHP: Who or what inspired you to become a social worker and advocate?
MF: Aside from my parents, I would say Dr. Michelle Callahan (TV relationship expert and Psychologist) and Dr. Jeff Gardere (Haitian Psychologist). I always knew I wanted to help people and seeing black psychologists on national TV inspired me to pursue my dreams of becoming a social worker. One of my passions in the field of social work was advocating for children who experienced trauma due to my past history of experiencing trauma.
NAAHP: How did you build your skill of speaking so engagingly in front of others?
MF: As a young child, I always loved talking and was never shy. As I got older, I decided to put myself out there and speak. The more I attended events, I would study how speakers speak and learn various speaking skills. I would join speaking groups and watch videos on how to keep a room engaged when speaking. I also learned the importance of preparing in advance for a speaking engagement.
NAAHP: What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?
MF: One thing I’ve learned on my journey of serving others it to keep learning. I believe in order to be an effective leader you have to spend some time learning the qualities of a leader. I love learning by reading books on leadership, podcasts, webinars, conferences, and people. As a leader, it is really important that I stay authentic to who I am and continue serving my community.
NAAHP: How do you prioritize your time and what you focus on?
MF: I am a big advocate of self-care and being intentional with how I spend my time. One way I prioritize my time is by setting goals for the week that I’d like to accomplish. Sometimes, I have to catch myself when I am focused on too many projects at the same time. I usually try to block out time daily to work on completing tasks.
NAAHP: What is the biggest challenge of your work?
MF: The biggest challenge is hearing the stories of young girls who experienced a traumatic event in their life. I have worked with so many girls who have dealt with sexual abuse, physical abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking. When I hear the stories, it breaks my heart to know that there are more girls out there who aren’t being rescued or provided a safe space to talk about their experiences.
NAAHP: What are your personal or professional journey highlights thus far?
MF: The highlights in my personal journey have been:
- Getting married to my best friend.
- Running my first half-marathon in Martha’s Vineyard.
- Creating a self-care plan for my daily life.
- Traveling internationally with my Haitian girlfriends to Greece and Brazil.
The highlights in my professional journey have been:
- Going to the White House under the Obama Administration.
- Speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus for Women and Girls.
- Working in private practice providing therapy to teens and young women.
- Launching my first product called The Therapist Planner for mental health professionals.
- Providing coaching services to aspiring therapists.
NAAHP: What kind of advice would you give to a student in your field?
MF: Make sure you maximize every opportunity you receive in undergraduate and graduate school. It’s important to know the advisors in your program, so your advisors are aware of your future endeavors. Ask your advisors about internship opportunities and network with other students in your program. I always tell graduate students that your colleagues are also resourceful when it comes to learning about new opportunities.
NAAHP: Do you have specific advice for women interested in building their leadership skills?
MF: Study the greats! Get around women you admire and listen to the wisdom and knowledge they share with you. I believe it’s important for women to recognize that they need a tribe and cannot do it alone. It’s important to have like-minded individuals that will support you and help you reach the next level in your life.
NAAHP: When you’re not at work, where can we find you?
MF: When I’m not working on building my business and brand, you can find me at brunch! I love connecting with other women over food, so I always encourage women to reach out to me via my website.