I want Genghis Khan to be my BOSS
Not too long ago, we done this Consultancy project for a Singapore SME to help his company address their high attrition rate and I posed this question to the boss: “Will you consider Genghis Khan as your CEO or CHRO?” the immediate reaction was “No Way!” So, I asked the next question: “How can he be the conqueror of the biggest empire ever established, of nearly 12-million square miles, had he not been a great boss?” So he pondered for a while and agreed: “You are right, he cannot be the best conqueror without being a good CEO or CHRO as his conquest are achieved through people” Exactly, he might be a bloodthirsty and ruthless 13th century dictator with a taste for world domination but he had eyes for talents, embrace change, a capacity to lead, inspire and motivate, driven by a bold vision and the desire to succeed.
So what can we learn from this world-class CEO and CHRO?
1. THINK BIG VISION, LEADERSHIP & PLANNING
Genghis had a vision to conquer the world, a big dream which was brought to reality. He once proclaimed: “Without the vision of a goal, a man cannot manage his own life, much less the lives of others…The ancients had a saying: ‘Unity of purpose is a fortune in affliction.’”. Aiding Genghis in all he did was the absolute belief that he was anointed by Heaven to lead and to conquer, which made him the great man he was. But self-belief account for nothing if he cannot convince his people he is the chosen son of heaven. And his leadership is one of leading from the front. His words said it all: “When it was wet, we bore the wet together, when it was cold, we bore the cold together.” Last but not least, before he decided on a new course of action be it an invasion or a new language, he did a thorough research before charging ahead. Success to him is all about knowing what your rivals are doing.
2. PROFIT SHARING AND PROMOTION ON MERIT
For Genghis’s armies, the spoils of victory are technically speaking the equivalent of our modern day corporate profits. And yes, their profits include quite frequently living people especially women as well as the pillaged booty from the vanquished. Profit sharing is what drives them to victories after victories. As a boss, Genghis knew he had to ensure his soldiers got recognised for their performance and rewarded accordingly. His officers were promoted on merit too. For that, his troops respect him and yes they would gladly follow him to fight till their last breadth. Nothing motivates his men better than giving them the appreciation for success. And that sharing of the spoils of war not only would produce the performance he wanted but also engendered loyalty among his troops. In modern day HR language, he offered the best performance-pegged compensation & benefits packages. He said it aptly: “[A leader] can never be happy until his people are happy.”
3. EYES FOR TALENTS AND EMBRACING CHANGE
Even though the Mongols were the best horsemen and wrestlers of their days, Genghis knew he had to recruit all kinds of talents and embrace change including new military knowhow to gain a competitive edge. To acquire the best technical knowhow and practices, he needs to acquire the best talents.
Islamic engineers contributed counterweight trebuchets, which had a maximum range of 300 metres compared to 150 metres of the ancient Chinese predecessor. It played a significant role in taking the Chinese strongholds. With the help of Chinese engineers, the Mongols developed the techniques to take down fortifications as well as technical knowhow of catapults and gunpowder. Chinese Catapults that can hurl gunpowder bombs were instrumental in their invasion of Transoxania in 1219. In addition to Chinese troops, many scholars and doctors from China accompanied Mongol commanders to the west.
His eyes for talents are not confined to military aspects. It was well known that Genghis invited Taoist master Qiu Chuji to meet him to study the Ways of the Tao and the secrets of immortality. Qiu explained the Taoist philosophy and the many ways to prolong life and was honest in saying there was no secret medicine of immortality and he was honoured by Genghis with the title Spirit Immortal. Last but not least, Genghis recruited the best talents to invent a new form of writing and mind you Genghis himself was illiterate.
So in a nutshell, we can learn a lot about management and HR from Genghis Khan who at first might make us a little uncomfortable. Genghis Khan’s reputation precedes him (a tyrant who shows no mercy to men, women or children), but that was deliberate. Genghis allowed rumors of his atrocities to spread to encourage surrender and cooperation from enemies who might otherwise resist. Putting that aside, the most inspiring part of his story was that at the age of 40, he was betrayed by his sworn brother and his army suffered a devastating defeat. He picked himself up and never looked back. I am pleased to say that my company, RecruitPlus, practices what Genghis had taught us. Personally, he was one of my several role model too.