Success Profile: Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq., CEO and Founder of WordSmithRapport

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Walker’s Legacy Profiles recognize unique women of color in business who embody the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire.  In this installment, meet Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq., CEO and Founder of WordSmithRapport.

“I have never let anyone else’s limitations define me or the direction in which I’ve been determined to go.”

These are the words of Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq., an accomplished author, attorney, businesswoman, and much more. In this interview, she discusses her new book, as well as rich advice for women to fully immerse themselves in what they love and to find full satisfaction in all areas of their lives. Just one conversation with Karima and you will discover that she truly is a “wordsmith” who communicates with grace, poise, and confidence.

1. Tell us a little about your background and your current line of work.

I am a corporate attorney and founder and CEO of the boutique consulting firm WordSmithRapport, which specializes in professional development and advisory services. In my role as an expert advisor, I help clients solve performance challenges that frustrate professional success in three core areas: leadership development, complex communication and performance management.

2. You wear several hats: attorney, author, facilitator, international keynote speaker, strategic leadership advisor, and communications consultant. (Among others, I’m sure!) What has been your process of finding the balance amongst all of your commitments?

My saving grace has been embracing the idea that not everything requires immediate focus. By the same token, having good organizational skills and discipline is key to prioritizing commitments of any scale. That said, my life has become so multi-dimensional and full of welcome variety by immersing myself in what I love, that—for me—pursuing the traditional idea of “balance” has become essentially idyllic. This shift has allowed me to successfully integrate my priorities and pivot to discover greater purpose, happiness and success both personally and professionally.

3. You recently released a book, Poised for Excellence, which focuses on leadership effectiveness. Can you provide some key highlights?

Poised for Excellence: Fundamental Principles of Effective Leadership in the Boardroom and Beyond is a provocative guidebook on leadership effectiveness. It introduces 40 illuminating principles showcasing the fundamental competencies that impact performance in the boardroom and beyond. Each chapter includes the following core components: 1) a robust, but succinct discussion introducing each principle; 2) key strategies providing straightforward guidance on how to master each principle; 3) a selection of thoughtful journal questions that allow for meaningful introspection, and finally, 4) a leadership challenge—a stretch goal—that brings each principle into immediate, scalable focus.

Whether a seasoned or emerging leader, each reader will discover useful perspectives contained within each chapter designed to firmly orient their thinking and behavior towards leadership excellence. An enduring resource for circumstances in which every leader will inevitably find him or herself confronting, it will also serve as the “go to” professional development resource for elevating leadership brands and facilitating the necessary trench work required to develop competent and confident leaders regardless of industry or expertise.

4. What inspired you to write this?

I really wanted to create a solid body of work that reflected my core area of expertise. Something that would provide an unmatched opportunity to share my high-touch experiences and lessons learned in a way that could be both didactic and inspirational.  Even though I had written several hundred articles over the past few years for various media outlets, I was quite motivated to create something more substantial.

5. What have been one of your greatest challenges as a multicultural woman in your line of business?

“I think one of the greatest challenges that I’ve experienced has been being underestimated.”

I think one of the greatest challenges that I’ve experienced has been being underestimated. The flipside of that is that people don’t always see you coming, which can also work to your advantage. In my particular line of work, there aren’t a great deal of women who are similarly situated, so-to-speak. That said, I have never let anyone else’s limitations define me or the direction in which I’ve been determined to go. I’ve been a bit contrarian in my approach to a large extent, but I think it has served me well.

6. What lessons have these experiences taught you?

To be my own best barometer and to love myself unconditionally. To eliminate the “box” (dream and create without self-imposed or other-imposed limitations). To fully immerse myself in what I love and devote every waking hour to honing my craft at a high level. In the end, your results will speak for themselves and you will never need to rely on the superficial approval of others.

7. Are there any women of color that paved the way for you to get where you are professionally? If so, who are they and how did you cross paths with them?

There are too many to name! Certainly my mother, grandmother, numerous aunts, countless mentors and untold success stories along the way. In fact, the process of “paving” is still on-going. I acknowledge that my success, and quite frankly, success for most anyone is a reflection of the combined efforts of many. Even though those relationships aren’t always revealed, rest assured that they exist—inherently—by virtue of the pursuit.

8. What advice do you have for young women who have several career interests but don’t know where to plant their roots?

Get clear on what you really want, what you really enjoy and prioritize your efforts in that direction. Know that the process may take time, and that’s OK. Just be intentional as you work through it. Also, don’t dismiss the universe of experiences and specialized learning you’ve amassed thus far. Leverage everything you are and everything know to build additional competencies wherever you decide to plant your roots.

9. Where can the audience reach you to learn more information?




Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith is passionate about connecting marginalized populations to resources that position them for success. As a business counselor at the Women’s Business Center of Northern Virginia, she equips aspiring business owners with the tools they need to become economically empowered through entrepreneurship. She teaches monthly business startup classes and conducts daily counseling sessions to meet the individual needs of her clients.