Widodo has already tackled some sensitive policies.
Last week he raised subsidised fuel prices by more than 30 percent, a move expected to save the government more than $8 billion next year.
He also plans to tighten control over a potentially unruly cabinet stacked with political appointees, there to appease the parties in his coalition, with the creation of a "kitchen cabinet" of trusted aides to help him push through reforms.
Widodo's initial decisions have impressed investors at a time when Indonesia's economy is growing at its slowest pace in five years.
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"The early signs are that he is bringing a new philosophy into the government of Indonesia," Richard Adkerson, chief executive of miner and oil producer Freeport-McMoRan Inc, a major investor in Indonesia, told a conference in New York last week.
As he did when Jakarta governor, Widodo has made clear he is not afraid to ruffle feathers.
"I told my ministers that if they fail to reach their targets, then sorry, but there are thousands queuing up to replace them," Widodo said this month at a business forum, according to local media.
Widodo is also taking a no-nonsense approach to spending.
This week he slashed the government's travel budget by over a third to free up funds. His ministers have similarly barred staff from holding meetings in expensive hotels.
Leading by example, Widodo did not take the presidential plane to attend his son's university graduation ceremony in Singapore last Friday. Instead, he flew economy class on national carrier Garuda Airlines, winning praise on social media for his "humility".
Widodo also took a slimmed-down entourage to international summits this month, said Cabinet Secretary and close presidential adviser Andi Widjajanto.
He added that Widodo had not appointed a spokesman, and didn't plan to do so, because "he wants to talk to his people directly". The president also frequently appears before the media after cabinet meetings or conferences.
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Widjajanto said Widodo had urged his ministers to follow his lead and "make field visits instead of just sitting in their offices".
All this is very different to previous administrations, where presidents were usually unapproachable, delegating most public interactions to aides.
But as the leader of 240 million people, some urge Widodo not to be a micromanager.
"It's great to check periodically on how things are going, but at some point he has to also think of the big picture," Stuart Dean, the CEO of General Electric Co's operations in Southeast Asia, told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Jakarta this week.