One of the last times I communicated with Mark Hurd, the CEO of Oracle who passed away last week, he closed out our pretty intense back and forth with, “Thanks for caring.”
At the time, I found it a curious thing for a CEO to say to a fellow executive about a complex and difficult situation — that wasn’t landing in a place I was happy with or agreed with. I read deeply into it assuming that people in big corporations just don’t care that much, so maybe I surprised him, or maybe he admired my passion, or maybe he just had a moment of empathy. Certainly, the situation I was battling, which was inconsequential to his personal struggle, fighting for my teams and individual people I had a history with and respected deeply was noble too.
I was all caring. I just didn’t agree with how things were being handled strategically for Oracle and tactically for us, but navigating corporate restructuring and reorgs was foreign territory for me and far too familiar for Mark. His sign off made it all feel more human and right. It gave me closure on that career stage at Oracle, for myself, and as a leader.
Knowing what I know now about what he was going through personally, it sits with me as far more poignant. It also amazes me that the man was so committed to Oracle that he was working until the very end, having only stepped away in early September. He loved his career and loved being a CEO and leader of a global organization. That was palpable. He was a business leader known for his big personality, competitiveness, salesmanship and business instincts. He was also known for being relentless about focused investments, cost cutting, and end-to-end company alignment. In a place like Oracle, where silos are inevitable at 150,000 person scale, Mark always tried to ensure that the customer and revenue were paramount. He was ruthless about this. He wouldn’t tolerate anything not centered in that.
In the end, all that really matters in business, whether you agree with your colleagues or not, is that they care and are doing things for the right reasons. Isn’t that what life is all about?
I didn’t know him that well and know he had his critics. But I felt very sad when I heard the announcement of his passing from his good friend and Oracle founder Larry Ellison.
I’ll always remember my interactions with Mark and how one of the last times we spoke, he said, “Thanks for caring.” It’s a good reminder that at the core, that’s the most important thing in business or in life. Be kind and care for other people, whether you agree with them, get what you want or you don’t.
Rest In Peace, Mark. Our thoughts are with your family, friends and the entire Oracle community during this difficult time.