Striving for Agility and Inventiveness

Oracle Managing Director Henky Agusleo reflects on how his time at BCG helped forge his inclusive leadership strategy.

Please elaborate on how your diverse roles at Oracle, Cisco, and BCG have shaped your approach to driving business growth and innovation.

Throughout my career, I have been at the intersection of strategy, innovation, and execution. BCG instilled in me the strategy DNA. At Cisco, I used innovative approaches to sense what was around the corner and utilize that knowledge as a tip of the spear to create larger-scale market penetration. Execution is where the rubber meets the road and is therefore fundamental to everything that I do. The ability to balance the three to fit the need of the business is a key factor to my success.

My current role at Oracle as MD of the cloud infrastructure business is an amalgamation and intersection of the roles that I have played in the past. It is a unique role because, as a chief strategist, chief of operations, and chief of staff simultaneously, I unify the strategy, execution, and people aspects of the business. The merging of roles is driven by circumstances and necessity because Oracle is a relative newcomer in the infrastructure market—and Oracle’s cloud business is much like a startup: a young outfit in a high-growth market. Because we are competing against larger, more established players like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, there is a need for agility and inventiveness in everything we do. Having key roles integrated into a leader breaks down unnecessary organizational silos, streamlines decision-making, and accelerates action to serve the needs of Oracle’s constituent—all of which are key ingredients for us to outdo and leapfrog the competitors.

As someone with experience in C-level customer engagements, how do you approach adapting business strategies to align with the evolving needs and expectations of various industries?

Today’s markets are simply hyper-contested, with participants big and small competing on products, services, and innovations all the time. My north star remains that, in order to succeed, we must be adaptable to customers and serve their needs as best as possible.

It sounds cliché, but it truly is the only way. My organization does this by identifying customer needs top to bottom and jointly mapping out with them the vision and journey that we will be in together. The follow-on to this strategy is to understand what is needed to get to the destination, take stock of your and your customer’s capabilities, and work out a way to fill what’s required. Often this is where partners come in, as they can provide the missing ingredients, whether those be technology, products, services, or even manpower. The last step of the process is to make sure that whatever is grown, built, or gained becomes ingrained and is retained for the next opportunities. The cyclical nature of the exercise is an important way to grow the organizational understanding of markets and enhance our capabilities to serve them.

You've played a significant role in forging holistic partnerships in areas such as Cloud Native, 5G, and Enterprise services. Can you share a specific instance when your ability to develop these partnerships resulted in a game-changing business opportunity or innovation for your organization?

I enjoyed Lego as a child, and even to this day. This love of Lego helps me in my career because building a business or developing a market often requires partnering with counterparts, which is a lot like putting together a Lego structure. There are many pieces of differing profiles that the orchestrator must find a way to pick and choose from so that every single one of them contributes to the desired outcome or end product. I generalize of course, but that is a typical way alliances or partnership at the strategic level is pursued.

Where the story deviates from the norm is when it becomes challenging, and in my case, rewarding. Bridging the digital divide is an important topic for a developing country like Indonesia, where I am from. When I was at Cisco, I had the honor of leading a mega project whose goal was to democratize broadband access for the population nationwide. This public-private partnership is critical for the company’s business in Indonesia and a game changer for the country. The challenge is in finding and recruiting execution partners in Indonesia because, while Cisco can provide the technology, we need teams on the ground to create the infrastructure. So instead of the usual partner selection and recruitment, we end up building partner capabilities from the ground up, investing significantly in educating and enabling partners to be able to support us in the initiative. This investment, however, served Cisco well in the following years as the company now has an in-country partner ecosystem that we can rely on for major projects. That and ushering a new era of digitalization for my homeland make this experience extraordinarily rewarding for me.

Please share your leadership philosophy or approach that has guided you in your career, namely in situations requiring strategic collaboration and leading high-performance teams.

As leaders, our success is driven in very significant ways by the success of our team. To be successful, leaders need to pick people with the right profiles, set the right vision and principles for them, equip them with the necessary resources, and allow them the freedom to achieve the desired outcome.

Throughout my career in business, I have strived to be an inclusive leader who encourage diversity of opinions and collaboration, leading to discovery of opportunities that are otherwise unexplored. By nature, I am a coach who leads by example, a roll-my-sleeves-up type of a person that builds camaraderie with my team. And I truly believe in a servient leadership style—enabling and empowering the individuals in any way I can because they are the ones on the front line creating success with customers day in and day out. These elements of people inclusion, coaching, and empowerment are what have guided my actions and decisions as a leader.

Are there any lessons that you took with you from your time at BCG that continue to influence how you operate and lead your team today?

There are many lessons from my BCG days that benefit me still this day. Here are some that have profoundly shaped me professionally (and personally):

  • Respect for the individuals and their ideas regardless of age, rank, or seniority. Propelled by technology, society today evolves at lightning speed. And the ones most adaptable and ready for change are often society’s youngest. As leaders, we need to understand the picture of tomorrow, and I often turn to the youths in my organization as a barometer of the future.
  • Don’t miss the forest for the trees. We live in a time when we are constantly bombarded by social media, opinions, and news (supposed and real). Always keep in mind the big picture and what we want to achieve—and don’t get distracted by the noise.
  • Insight, Impact, Trust—a BCG motto if ever there were one; I am probably showing my age by even mentioning it! But seriously, it is not just a tagline but a way to build my personal brand as one who is trustworthy and creates impact by being insightful.