Here's the tactic Oracle's CEO uses to confidently make tough decisions, even when his team pushes back


Mark Hurd

  • Oracle CEO Mark Hurd spoke about his leadership style and strategy at the tech company in an episode of Business Insider’s podcast “This Is Success.”
  • Hurd said that when he makes an informed decision and there’s pushback, he will always do what is best for the company, without making a reactionary move in response to criticism.
  • C-Suite Insider is a collection of exclusive interviews with leaders of the world’s largest companies.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Mark Hurd’s tenure at Oracle has been defined by the way he’s transformed the company. Shortly after Oracle founder Larry Ellison hired Hurd as president in 2010, Hurd set to work revamping the way the enterprise tech firm made and sold products, and how it recruited and trained its salespeople.

It was a plan he’s accelerated since becoming CEO in 2014. In an interview for an episode of Business Insider’s podcast “This Is Success,” Hurd said that while saying he faced “some” resistance is an “understatement” — analysts criticized him after hundreds of employees, including veterans, left the company  — he never questioned his strategy.

“I think nobody likes criticism, resistance, no matter what anybody tells you,” he said. “That said, I think you have to rely on your experience and your instincts as to where you think the market’s headed, and what changes are necessary. I’ve always believed it was the company first.”

He explained that he didn’t want to come across as if he ignores all criticism; it’s just that he’s learned to refrain from being reactive to pushback. He was convinced by the data that the industry was moving toward the cloud (where clients access software online rather than from hardware), and that Oracle needed to invest in employee training if it was going to adapt. That longtime employees went to the press to say he was ruining the company was not enough to sway him from a decision he weighed carefully, for what he says was Oracle’s long-term benefit.

Six years into his tenure at Oracle, the public perception of his strategy started to change. Outsiders began recognizing that Oracle had to adapt, often in painful ways, to meet market demands. When we brought up a positive anecdote to Hurd during the interview, he was as quick to dismiss it as he was an earlier criticism we’d mentioned.

“I wouldn’t give too much credence to the early anecdote you brought up or to any other anecdote, because I think you can find a lot of these as you dig through a large organization,” he said. “I think the key is that strategically, this was right for us. I believe you will see more people actually imitate that strategy because it just makes sense.”

We had our interview with Hurd earlier this year, and his prediction came true. Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian said in April that he was borrowing from Oracle’s strategy for transitioning to cloud in order to catch up to Amazon and Microsoft in that sector.

Oracle is still playing catch-up as well, but Hurd said that it’s because the company was starting from nothing in terms of its cloud offerings and its mentoring system.

“You know, we’re all faced with, in any of these jobs, making hundreds and thousands of decisions every day — doesn’t mean that you’re going to get them all right,” he said. “I have confidence enough in the process that if I make a decision, I’m willing to listen if I’ve made a bad decision. Let’s review it and do it again.” He’s just not going to immediately back off from a decision when there are unpredictable challenges that arise.

As he told me, “You asked a simple question to begin with: Do I feel confident in the strategy of Oracle? I do.”

You can listen to the full “This Is Success” episode below, or on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

SEE ALSO: How Oracle CEO Mark Hurd confidently turned around the company, even while employees and shareholders doubted him

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