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A Leadership Lesson From The History Of Valentine's Day

The Modern Business World Is Filled With Leaders Like This Roman Emperor

By Cody Dakota Wooten, C.B.C.Published 3 months ago 4 min read

Most people associate Valentine's Day with Roses, cute stuffed Teddy Bears, and Commercialism.

All fair things, but not as interesting for Leaders as the story I'm about to tell...

I want to take you back to the Year 270 A.D.

The Roman Empire has not been doing well.

History would call this period the "Crisis of the Third Century" where the world's most powerful Empire nearly collapsed.

At this point of the Crisis, we have the Emperor Claudius Gothicus.

Many today call him Claudius the Cruel.

He was involved in a number of extremely unpopular and bloody military campaigns during his short tenure as Emperor.

Claudius the Cruel believed that to maintain his Crumbling Empire, more war would be needed, and therefore would need to maintain a powerful army.

But he had a Problem.

It seemed that even though he was (debatably) the most powerful person in the world at that time, he couldn't convince people to join the army.

Claudius wanted to know, "Why?"

Why would the people, HIS people, not want to join the army to maintain the Roman Empire?

Claudius came to a conclusion...

It must be the Families!

Roman men were unwilling to serve the Emperor in the army because they were too attached to their Families!

So, Claudius became determined to make sure that this Obstacle to his Goals would disappear.

The men do not need Families - they need to serve the Emperor in the army!

To make sure there were no conflicts of interest, Claudius made a decree.

All marriages and engagements were to be banned in Rome!

This decree was... not popular.

According to history, there was a man who found this to be an unjust decree and had the bravery to stand against the Emperor!

That man was Valentine.

Valentine was a Priest of the Catholic Church during this period and decided that no man - no matter how powerful - could stand in the way of Love that had been brought together by God.

Love is an essential part of what it is to be Human.

So Valentine, in secret, defied the Emperor.

Under Valentine, many couples were married despite the demand of Claudius.

As you can imagine, Claudius did not enjoy that he was being defied, and so lived up to his namesake of "Cruel".

He demanded that Valentine be put to death!

On February 14th, Valentine would be condemned, beaten to death with clubs, and have his head cut off for his defiance of the Emperor.

At least that is how the story goes.

So, what can Leaders learn from this story?

Quite a few lessons!

For instance - no matter how much power you may have, no matter what title you hold, and no matter how right you feel in what you decide, it doesn't mean that others will Listen to you.

You could have the power to decree death upon someone, and it still doesn't mean they will Listen if they completely Disagree with you.

Today, we need to look no further than the Return-To-Office "Mandates" that have mostly gone ignored, with offices still at only about 50% capacity.

Despite employees being threatened with being fired for disobedience, it hasn't moved the needle to force cooperation.

There is also a further lesson that we see played out here.

You may make the decree, and you may find ways to try to enforce it, but if people passionately disagree with you then they'll work against you in secret.

Today we call this "Quiet Quitting" and "Active Disengagement".

The harder you push, much like Claudius discovered, you'll find that people will simply work harder against you.

From here, we can also learn this next lesson - Sometimes the first Solutions you think of are not that good.

Claudius likely thought that his Solution was brilliant!

...Even if the rest of us think it is completely ridiculous.

Unfortunately, it is common for Leaders to come up with "brilliant" Ideas that end up being considered ridiculous by everyone else.

Usually, our first solutions end up being quite terrible, and we should take extra time to get to a more thorough and well-thought-out Solution.

I mean, Love is an engrained part of humanity, do you think that you can just "decree" it away?

That sounds ridiculous, but I could say the same thing about "Sleep", "Recovery", "Flow States", "Energy (Mg-ATP)", and "Dis-Stress Reactions" to name a few.

Most Leaders today either don't understand how these function toward Productivity, or feel they are Powerful enough to just "decree" them away.

No matter how you look at it though, these are parts of being Human, and no matter how "Powerful" you may be, nothing you can do as a Leader will...

  • Prevent People from Needing Sleep
  • Overcome the Need for Recovery
  • Stop People from seeking Flow States
  • Get People to do More when they are in Burnout without Energy (Mg-ATP)
  • Muscle through the Survival Instincts that come with Dis-Stress Reactions

Not to mention the number of organizations making demands that Employees spend MORE time working when Employees already feel like they don't spend enough time with their Families!

Try as you may, you'll just end up with a bunch of Valentines on your Teams and in your Organization - and they will be right.

This leaves us with perhaps the most Powerful Lesson of all...

How will History remember you?

Will you be remembered as the Crazy and Cruel "Leader" who attempted to use their Power to decree ridiculous things in what ended up being a short rule that proved overall meaningless as their "Empire" crumbled around them and their people openly rebelled against them?

(Claudius' rule was only from 268 - 270 AD)

Or will you be the type of Hero that people remember and celebrate like Valentine who fought for what Humans need?

Which Legacy will you leave behind?

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About the Creator

Cody Dakota Wooten, C.B.C.

Creator of the Multi-Award-Winning Category "Legendary Leadership" | Faith, Family, Freedom, Future | The Legendary Leadership Coach, Digital Writer (500+ Articles), & Speaker


[email protected]

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Comments (2)

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  • L.C. Schäfer3 months ago

    Arggg I can't get on board with "quiet quitting" as a term. It's not any kind of quitting to do your job and then stop unless compensated for more responsibility, more hours, etc. In a lot of cases, it's a very reasonable boundary and much needed when your employer starts to take the mickey!

  • Scott Christenson3 months ago

    Interesting, just learned the Valentines day origin story for the first time, nice to tie it together with unpopular leaders in the present day.

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