Valentine’s Day.  A day when you will think about hearts.  Candy hearts.  Plastic hearts.  Neon sign hearts.  Big paper hearts inscribed with the declaration of devotion, “from your Valentine…”    

Not many know the story of Valentine’s traditional origin.   You have heard about Saint Valentine. However, you may not know there were several Saints named Valentine  Each one met fates that would cause a caring parent to think twice before naming a child Valentine.  The one most credit as the namesake of the day was Valentinus of Rome a Christian priest living around 270 CE.

But first Claudius

Claudius II – also known as Marcus Aurelius Valerius Claudius Augustus (too much to say at a party so he was commonly known as Claudius Gothicus) was emperor for a grand total of two years.  During that time he defeated the Goths in battle, contracted smallpox and died.  Not the stuff of corporate legend.

I learned of Claudius when I acquired an ancient Roman coin in a deal from a shopkeeper.  He tossed it in for free because neither of us knew the image - yet, another sign of Claudius’ success as a leader.  To discover the origin of my prize, I learned as much about the short-serving emperor as I could.  His position and his respect came from being ambitious, devious, and cruel…very cruel

This is where Valentinus of Rome re-enters the story…

According to legend, Claudius hated two things which sealed the fate of Valentinus:  Married soldiers and   Christians.  So, when Valentinus was caught performing marriage ceremonies for soldiers and providing medical care for Christians he was imprisoned and eventually beheaded.   During his imprisonment, he is said to have healed the daughter of his jailer.  It was this young lady who received the first “Valentine” when Valentinus gave his jailer a heart shaped note with the message “from your Valentine”.  

Today we associate Valentine’s Day with romance.  However, for more than 1000 years, Valentine’s Day was known as a celebration of service and sacrifice

Claudius put his life on the line leading with ruthless power and ambition.   Valentinus put his life on the line with service.  Claudius believed his soldiers to be expendable and undeserving of a life outside of work.   Valentinus took risks and made personal sacrifice to make the lives around him more complete.

In work, few are asked to make life and death sacrifices – but employees know when you have your interests at heart or theirs.   On February 14, when you see a heart, take a moment to remember the story of Valentinus and Claudius and evaluate your leadership.  Are you the self-serving Claudius or Valentinus the servant leader?  

Engagement is fast becoming the workplace theme for 2013.  You will be more successful if you evaluate yourself on the Claudius-Valentinus scale and start your engagement efforts by first committing to be a Valentine.

"From your Valentines"



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