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 Wisdom to Win
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Genghis Khan LeadershipGenghis Khan Leadership


Genghis Khan (c.1160-1227)


Brilliant but brutal Mongolian leader (pictured right) who conquered an empire twice the size of Rome’s.


Why was he a great leader?


1. Loyal troops

He admired and rewarded people’s talent, whatever their religion or nationality.

He made poor herdsmen generals, and even his old enemies served him.

 All he asked in return was loyalty, which he encouraged by:

  • his generosity (keeping them well fed).
  • honesty and integrity (he always kept his promises).
  • promotion on merit
  • delegation of power.
  • giving his troops booty from his conquests.

His officers and government officials throughout his empire were given considerable autonomy to achieve his broad objectives.

There was a particularly strong bond between him and his troops.

“I will share with you men the bitter and the sweet”, he said, and he never broke that promise.


2. Organization, firepower and training

The backbone of his army was small units of 10 menGenghis Khan Leadership:

  • four heavily armoured lancers, and
  • six cavalry archers, pictured right (using their lethal reflex bows with a range of up to 300 yards).

They were some of the best troops in history, because of their superb training and discipline, imposed strictly but fairly by Genghis Khan and his officers.


3. Speed

His army was by far the world’s quickest, moving up to 100 miles a day.


4. Ruthless brutality

He simply killed anybody who was disloyal or opposed him.

He never forgot an insult, or an enemy that did not immediately obey him.

He wasn’t sadistic, but was cruel to preserve people’s loyalty and terrorize the enemy.

But he was still incredibly brutal.

At least 1¼ million Muslims were murdered during his invasion of Persia (now Iran and Iraq).


5. Information and lifelong learning

Originally an illiterate herdsman, he was the first Mongolian to learn the benefits of writing and efficient administration from his conquered enemies.

He learned the art of siege warfare from the Chinese and the need for alliances from his mother. He also learned from his mistakes.

He was also constantly seeking information about his empire, the enemy and troop movements, helped by

  • a superb ‘pony express’ mail service,
  • brilliant communication by flags in battle
  • the world’s best spies (giving accurate information about the enemy's weaknesses).
  • his curiosity.

Prior to the invasion of Europe, his spies lived there for nearly 10 years gathering information about each country like its roads and military strength.


6. Strength from divine beliefGenghis Khan Leadership

He always believed he had heaven’s support in everything he did.

This certainty gave him an enormous self-belief and determination that helped to create his empire (pictured right when he died in 1227).


7. Humility,self-control and accepting advice

He never betrayed his humble origins as a herdsman, living simply and once giving up his own clothes for a poor Mongolian in need.

He also accepted other people's wise opinions and put them into practice. For example, he rewarded two friends, he said, because “You urged me to do what was right”.


8. Charisma, physical toughness and self-reliance

He had the personality and strength of character to inspire others to follow him (including his son and successor, Ogedei Khan).

 He was superbly fit until well into his 60’s, and his father's death forced him to be self-reliant and look after his mother.


9. Purpose

He was prepared to do anything to win, ridiculing the European idea of honour in battle.

The unity of his people was extremely important to him.

“One arrow alone can be easily broken but many arrows are indestructible”, he said.


10. Brilliant tactician and opportunist

He used to feign retreat, then turn around and surprise the enemy, the most difficult battlefield tactic to execute.

He avoided head-on assaults, preferring to speedily outflank and surround the enemy and attack them with arrows at long range.

 He was also superb at creating and seizing opportunities.


Key quotes on success

It is not sufficient that I succeed – all others must fail.

The merit of an action lies in finishing it to the end.


Key quotes on happiness

Be one mind and one faith that you may conquer your enemies and lead long and happy lives.

The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies.


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