Machine Gun Kelly and his gangster mob from the 1920s and 1930s were not exactly stand-up people. On September 26, 1933, in Memphis, Tenn., the gang was broken up, and ceased to carve up and fracture the law. It seems, however, that they are still around – somewhat. Our management lesson from this blog ties to Machine Gun Kelly. As the story goes, my daughter-in-law’s great-grandfather was given a 1905 Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver, that belonged to the bodyguard of Machine Gun Kelly. The story is complex, so we will not belabor it all here. Along with the gun came several old boxes of .38 Special ammunition.
Where I Come In
Recently, my son felt that it would be safer for his wife’s family, if the gun and the bullets were not stored together at the families’ mountain cabin. So, I was asked to dispose of the fragile and dangerous ammunition. During my years as a safety manager, I had amassed a large number of contacts in both the public and private business communities. My son and I were both confident that I would have no trouble in properly disposing of the 79-year old ammunition.
The Steps Taken
OK, let me get this ammo off the street. I called my contact at the local police department. I was quickly told that the PD no longer accepts unwanted ammo from citizens; budget-wise it is too expensive for the PD to dispose of unwanted ammo from the public. It has become a political issue. I asked for another possible solution to try. He had no answer for me. I, then, contacted the local Sheriff’s Department. They could not accept it, either. I, next, called a friend, who is a beat officer with the local PD. He said that he, himself, had some loose ammo from an arrest he had made, and he took it to the bomb squad in his division for them to destroy it, and they would not help him out. Whew! This is getting tougher than I thought! Well, I had two upper-echelon contacts at the fire department. I sent an email to one contact, and left a voice mail for the other. Surely, one of them could provide the answer. Neither one responded. Wow, what is a citizen to do? Another friend, who is a retired law enforcement officer, suggested that maybe a shooting range or gun store might accept Machine Gun Kelly’s ammunition.
The message was becoming clear, and it reminded me of the basic rule of management and leadership. Managers, leaders, or people in positions of power have one axiom they must live by. They must be able to provide simple, correct and effective answers to the problems or questions of those they lead. If they cannot find or provide the solutions, then they should not be in a leadership role. If you are in a position of power, you must be a problem solver. Machine Gun Kelly and his bodyguard, with their left over ammo, were bringing this axiom back into the daylight.
Friends, what about friends? A member of a western entertainment group I belong to had heard of my plight. “Dakota” (his stage name) let me know that he had a friend who is an industry expert on old, collectable ammunition, of various genres. “Dakota” would be happy to safely transport the historic ammo to his expert friend; taking it off my hands. Ah, success!
A Lessoned Relearned
I have been happy reunited with the old adage that friends will always bail you out. Sadly, I am also reminded that even if people are placed in a position of leadership or authority, they may often disappoint you. They may fail to give you the solutions you need, even for problems that they should be skilled at solving, based upon their job or expertise. It took the tail end of a long running gangster episode to remind this author of the responsibility of leaders to accept their role in problem solving.