The game changer

Today, October 20th 2014, is an important milestone for Indonesia.

Joko Widodo, popularly know as Jokowi, starts his presidency today, as the first President on Indonesia who came from a background none of any former Indonesian presidents come from.

His actions in the last seven days prior to his inauguration present Jokowi as the game changer of this government and perhaps even the nation. His soft and smart move by informally visiting his political opponents one by one and discuss on what they have in common – rather than how they are different from each other – display a particular quality of his leadership and managerial style. A remarkably different quality to his predecessor, I must say.


TIME magazine highlights Jokowi’s inauguration with a simple but strong statement – a new hope. I agree. His background and his style promise us a new hope.

Jokowi is an Indonesian commoner by background, literally. He is not someone with Javanese royal heritage. None of his parents or further ancestral lineage had served in any public office or positions – politicians, minister, army general, inaugurated hero or even a war veteran. That in fact makes people like him, feel close to him, and eventually support him.

He is a businessman, but not a big tycoon who owned a conglomeration, nor he is a businessman who is known in the media for a product that change the market. He is just a common businessman who has been quite successful in furniture export. This gives him an edge to the big businessmen who actively involved in politics – something we have seen in Indonesian politics in the last couple of years.

This common guy, starting from today, will lead this government and this nation in a different way. His personality, his style, and his adept skill of finding what can be done rather than what can’t be – something none of his predecessors ever bring to the government, but something successful commoners always do.

Jokowi’s move of a low profile initiative to visit his political oppositions may seems as compromising by some. Nonetheless, as the elected president, he is on top of the bargain position. No matter what low profile gesture he presents in front of his opposition, he is in fact the winner of the public support, and he used that to his advantage. His opponents know well that there is a lot of possible benefit to receive Jokowi’s visit, and there are too many possible costs for rejecting that.

Just like Vito Corleone’s famous expression from Coppola’s The Godfather, Jokowi make an offer his oppositions just simply can’t refuse. This is an act of a keen and skillful businessman who succeeds through his skills, in comparison to many big Indonesian businessmen who make their wins through political supports and any special favor from the authorities.

From all of six presidents before Jokowi, I have seen political drivers, effective dictator, philosopher, and image manager. But not yet I ever seen a skillful management that get things done in a smooth and involve all stakeholders as much as possible. Soeharto was definitely effective, but involving stakeholders is definitely not his way. Soekarno and Gus Dur is both political driver and philosopher, but getting things done is not really what they did. SBY’s tenure is definitely driven by maintainance of political image and public relation.

Jokowi, and his vice president, Jusuf Kalla, can be defined in one expression: management that works. This is about personality and skill, which I did not see from any of his predecessors.

This makes us all can hope that he is indeed the game changer.





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