The concept of a professional code is probably as old as humanity itself

  • The Greek State of Sparta, for the most part, rose around the principles of one man and those who shared his code of action. In the early part of the 8th Century BCE, Lycurgus of Sparta laid the foundations for the famous warrior state that most are familiar with today.
  • Much of Roman society was arguably influenced by that code of “State and citizenship first, individual second”.
  • Around the 12th Century CE, The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon (The Templars) rose as an organization around just a few French clergy-knights. Although history is a little fuzzy on how much clergy, how much knight.
  • By the 13th Century CE, documents were being circulated that formalized many versions of this professional code into what is commonly known as “Chivalry”….or the code of Knighthood. 
  • Contrary to many misconceptions, the concept of the Japanese code of the Samurai, Bushido, is a relatively modern development. As a formal code, it really didn’t crystalize until the latter part of the 17th Century. There is no doubt, however, that it grew from like-minded individuals who formalized and institutionalized it as a professional doctrine.

The point is that many longstanding organizations throughout history began from a handful of individuals that shared a “professional code” so to speak and built the organizations around them. Further, one of the common characteristics of individuals who managed to sustain excellence throughout their lives was also some form of professional mantra that guided almost everything they did;

  • Theodore Roosevelt believed whole heartedly in, “Living the strenuous life”.
  • Gandhi preached, “Action and change through non-violence”.
  • Steve Jobs lived by the relentless pursuit of form and function, art and practicality in consumer products.
  • Nelson Mandela lived by using the example of works of others as inspiration.
  • John Wooden’s code revolved around constantly practicing the fundamentals…in sports and life.

These are all examples of famous people, but the idea applies to anyone, any organization. It all begins with the individual, in the mirror. When those who share the same professional code come together, an organization can grow and flourish. For it to sustain excellence, however, it must always look from the roots up.

The real question is, “What is your professional code?” Do you have one?

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