[August 18, 2019] If you want to be a better leader, learn what motivates people by studying their code of conduct. Formal or informal, rules that spell-out how people should act are an invaluable window into their lives. A few days ago, while visiting the house of a friend; we got to talking about Genghis Khan, the fierce warrior leader who conquered most of Eurasia, and his not-so-unusual code of conduct.
The possession of a code of conduct is universal among humans. How else to better hold people together in a cooperative, organized way than to have a set of common rules that both prohibit certain types of behavior (that run counter to the interests of everyone) and lays out proper behavior (that benefits all). A good modern code of conduct is the U.S. military code.1
The Mongol Yassa code of conduct is ancient. And, although it was never written down precisely, historians have managed to piece together many of its tenets based on documents from societies conquered by Genghis Khan. A few of them are listed below. Note the commonalities when compared to English land law that traces its origins to ancient Roman times.
- It is ordered to believe that is only one God, creator of heaven and earth, who alone gives life and death, riches and poverty, as pleases Him; and who has over everything an absolute power.
- Forbidden, under the death penalty, to pillage the enemy before the general commanding gives permission.
- Every man who does not go to war must work for the empire, without reward, for a certain time.
- The man in whose possession a stolen horse if found must return it to its owner and add nine horses of the same kind.
- Whoever finds a runaway slave or captive and does not return him to the person to whom he belongs is to be put to death.
- An adulterer is to be put to death without any regard as to whether he is married or not.
- Love one another, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false witness, do not be a traitor, respect old people and beggars.
- Whoever intentionally lies, or practices sorcery, or spies upon the behavior of others, or intervenes between the two parties in a quarrel to help the one against the other is also to be put to death.
- More are found at this link in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yassa
Many attribute great barbarity, brutality, genocide, and wholesale destruction to Genghis Khan and his army. But Khan himself realized that he could not hold together such a vast empire by violence alone. He had to have a set of rules of conduct that made it easier to keep a diversity of cultures together. And, he succeeded.
Genghis Khan, the Mongol leader who forged an empire, dies in camp during a campaign against the Chinese kingdom of Xi Xia, on this date, August 18, 1227.2