Louder than Words

Morris Clark knows leadership means more than possessing the right traits, but he credits certain characteristics that enable his team’s financial feats at Marathon Oil

Morris Clark has certainly thought a lot about what makes a successful leader at Marathon Oil since arriving in 2002 as its senior tax counsel. Fourteen fruitful years later, Clark was elected to his current position as vice president and treasurer. He relentlessly pursues strategies to be the best leader possible. “You have to make the sacrifice and put in the sweat and hard work to make your dreams and goals a reality,” he says.

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For his first five years at Marathon Oil, Clark was responsible for providing tax-related advice and counsel for both the corporate and business levels. He worked his way into the role of assistant treasurer in 2007, and ever since then, he has assumed an integral position within the company. Now Clark plays a vital role in the company’s global treasury needs, which include corporate finance, cash and banking operations, counterparty risk functions, and enterprise risk management.

As a native of Louisiana, Clark was quite familiar with the oil industry. Yet coming from a tax background, Clark never thought he would assume a role like the one he has now. Though much of Clark’s role is focused on treasury needs, he oversees a vast team that requires being a strong leader to enable his team to best run their fields. As a leader, two qualities that he espouses are flexibility and open-mindedness. “The ability to connect and inspire people is key,” he adds.

Finance is the front line in achieving the strategic goals of Marathon Oil, according to Clark. Initially, he assumed his foray into finance would be temporary, but the experience captivated his interest. “I liked the challenge the financial side presented,” Clark says.

For Clark, having a set goal is another major component of leadership. “I think successful leaders are action-oriented,” he says. “I certainly don’t think of leadership as just a role.” He adds that one of the biggest mistakes people make in their approach to leadership is thinking of the role as merely a series of traits that can be checked off.

Morris Clark, Marathon Oil
Morris Clark

Since his team is such a vital sector for Marathon Oil, diversity becomes a major factor. Though Clark believes in the inherent importance of diversity, he also notes that it makes great business sense. “In our space, the issues that we are dealing with are very complex and challenging,” he says. “So the more points of view that you can bring, the better off you will be.”

While it’s a priority for his team to have diverse backgrounds, there are a number of shared traits that anyone who works for Clark possesses. “It’s important that the people in our team are first and foremost intelligent and technically capable,” he says. Clark emphasizes that his team at Marathon Oil is highly driven and self-motivated.

Embracing accountability in that team-oriented environment is crucial as well, according to Clark. It links his team’s combination of passion, technical prowess, and diverse thinking that Clark says helps them overcome trials and tribulations and ultimately enhances the overall financial acumen of Marathon Oil. Clark attributes his own success as a leader to those qualities of flexibility and open-mindedness.

Perhaps, though, an additional quality that Clark really emphasizes is fearlessness. There are decisions that any leader could make that might challenge others. “Being a leader is not a popularity contest; inevitably you have to make tough decisions,” he explains. “You can’t be afraid to do that.”