Becoming the Khan
While still a teenager, Temüjin was able to unite the Mongol clans. Together, they began to overpower other warring tribes in the region, among them the Tatar, Naiman, and Merkid.
Overcoming rival tribes was a long struggle, but eventually the Mongols dominated the region. When they elected Temüjin as Great Khan in 1206, he took the name Genghis Khan, which means “Oceanic Ruler.”
What was the key to Genghis’s success? A charismatic personality and an innovative leadership style. He built his army by forming strong alliances, rewarding loyalty and skill over bloodlines, and bringing defeated warriors into his band.
To facilitate discipline and provide a clear chain of command, the troops were organized by tens. The ten men in the basic unit were responsible for each other—if one failed, all were punished.
An imperial guard served the Khan. To be selected was considered a great honor—it was the military academy for the next generation of elite leaders. Each young officer-in-training, chosen from the sons of regimental leaders, was also a kind of hostage, guaranteeing their fathers’ loyalties to the Khan.