I have abandoned my planned topic this week and will be writing in a state of great grief.

Today I am going to tell you about how you can learn from someone who taught me a lot. He was a great leader and these lessons will help you to be a better leader, coach, team member and person.

I learned last night that a great man passed away at home.

My phone blew up at about 8:00 pm. I got about seven calls in ten minutes about the news.


Edward Kelley, SCSD, Kell

Me, Mazzio and Eddie Kelley



My good friend and former boss, Eddie Kelly died last night and I’d like to share with you some of the things he taught me, even though I don’t know that he realized he did.
Reflecting back, he probably knew exactly what he was doing. More on that later.

I was a Deputy Sheriff for 21 years and Eddie was THE Shift Commander.
Each shift had more than one Shift Commander.
None of them compared to Captain Kelly.
He was THE Shift Commander.

He was loved and more importantly, respected by those who worked for him.

A few of us called him Dad. There was a large group of guys who started young, in our early twenties, and he was the go to guy for us. He looked out for us,
guided us, listened to us, kicked us in the ass when we were stupid, and helped us to be better officers.
He also helped us grow to be better men (and women).

We worked in a tough place and most of the time the Administration made it tougher on us.
Captain Kelley was one consistent thing you could always count on. There early, there late, always willing to give you an ear to bend and also to lend his help when he could in any way he could.
It went both ways. He made you WANT to do a good job.
He made you WANT to work for him and go to battle for and with him if needed.
You didn’t want to disappoint him.

Edward Kelley, SCSD, Kell

If someone made a mistake it always fell back to “I hope Kell isn’t pissed at me” or “I hope didn’t let Kell down.”
I had heard this countless times over the years, and probably said it a hundred or so times as I got called to Dad’s office, a lot.
While I don’t think I ever saw him pissed, I think we may have let him down a few times but you would not know it from him.

Eddie’s leadership style was laid back but demanded respect.

He was not a big man but he got the respect of a big man and it was not due to his rank.
Anyone who has ever worked in this environment knows that rank does not equal respect.
Respect is earned.
Eddie earned his every shift, every day.

He was strong in spirit.
He was fair.

If you made a mistake you got called to the Shift Commanders office, or Dad’s office as we called it and with most Shift Commanders you would expect an ass ripping.

Eddie never did that.

He talked to you like a man (or like a woman).

He treated you with respect.

When you were summoned to Dad’s office (Deputy Murphy, Shift Commander’s office right away! Came over the radio), it was understood that you would tell the truth right off the bat.
You were counseled and given orders, although they did not feel like orders, more like instructions and when the session was over, it was over.
There were no hard feelings or retribution after. It was over and you didn’t make the same mistake again.
Yes, we made new mistakes.
A lot.

This is not an issue for a leader. A leader will tell you what you did poorly, or why your judgment was not optimal and then explain how to better handle the situation later.
This is a far better and more honorable way to handle employee issues than to give an ass ripping.

He made you understand why you made the mistake and you would not make it again because Kell made you want to be better.

Eddie could break balls with the best of them, but unlike with your buddies, you didn’t cross a line.

In crisis situations Eddie was unflappable.
He had an uncanny ability to read the situation right away and figure out the best resolution to it.
A lot of times the younger guys wanted to go right to force, but Eddie reserved force for when it was absolutely necessary.
He was able to quickly deescalate a potentially violent situation in minutes by listening and then talking to the person in question.

Many times we would be pissed that he chose this route but we trusted him.

He taught me that far fewer situations required force than I thought in my younger years.
He taught me that if you don’t have to get physical, why would you.

I would have taken a bullet for Eddie and so would the rest of the shift.
I took many punches for him because like in hockey, you protect the goalie and he was our Tim Thomas.

Even though he was a small guy, he was not afraid to get in the middle of it.

I remember one time we had a pretty big dust up and he arrived and got right in the middle to stand with his troops.

Shift Commanders do not get into brawls.
He would if it was required.
His glasses got knocked off and he couldn’t see, he took a few punches as a result but stayed in there with some people who were much bigger and younger than him.

He also ordered me to find his “f*ing” glasses for him fast.

I almost pissed myself laughing, but I found them.

He never took things personally either. Most situations we encountered were not personal.
Many of us viewed things as personal when they were situational.

We were in a position of authority and the others were in a position of crisis and they lashed out for whatever the reason.
It could have been mental issues, a life crisis of some type, the threat of long term incarceration due to crime or countless others, but they were almost never personal.

It took time to learn this but watching him and listening to him over the years taught me that and I use it to this day, even with my managers.
They sometimes take a situation personally with staff when it is utterly not.
It is situational.

I try and counsel them the way Ed did to us.
It’s not usually personal.

Eddie was always talking about his family too, at least to those he was close with. I feel very fortunate that I was one of those people.
We talked a lot about things you would not normally talk to your boss about.

Eddie helped me and countless others through some very tough personal situations over the years and did all that he could when situations arrived and we needed his help.

Every work place has cliques and Eddie did not show favoritism to those he was tight with.
He treated all of us the same.
Fairly, honorably and with respect.

I use Art of War as a management reference and while I don’t think Kell ever read it, it seems he did too.

Captain Edward Kelly taught me many things on being a good leader and I hope my team feels that I am one.

Treat people with compassion and respect

Your staff is your greatest resource, but they are people.
They need to be treated fairly and spoken to with dignity. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

You can’t speak to everyone the same

You have a different relationship with each person on your team. They all have different personalities.
As a leader, you need to figure out how to best reach them and speak to them.
Sometimes, like he did with me it is telling them not to be an asshole. This is not the right approach to everyone, but it is with me. I’m just a kid from the projects and I get that.
He found a way to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures in a manner that was understood. That’s a gift. It can also be developed. I am lucky to have had him to help me learn that.

Address Mistakes On the Spot and Correct Them

It seems Kell had 10 eyes and 10 ears. He always knew what was going on and knew right away.
If you messed up, you heard your name over the radio. You went there and it got dealt with.
As a leader, you can’t let problems simmer.
They only get worse.

Don’t Rush to Judgement

Eddie was great for not forming an opinion until he had all the facts. He didn’t rush to judgement.
As a leader, it is best to base your position on facts, not hearsay.
Listen, get the details and go forward.

When It’s Over, It’s Over

If you were brought in for a “chat”, when it was over, it was over. He didn’t hold grudges and hang things over your head.
A leader makes corrections and adjustments to his team and moves on. Holding on to past mistakes and hanging them over someone’s head is never productive.

Counter Point” Have a Long Memory

Just because it’s over does not mean that you forget. Sometimes, you just can’t get through to people.
That calls for a different set of actions and he knew what to do then too. Each case was different and as leaders, we need to figure this out on our own.

Have Your Troops Back

Eddie always had our backs, even if we screwed up. Standing up for your team builds confidence in the leader.

We as managers, leaders, business owners need to stand by our team. I have learned this countless times over the years in customer service issues. I never bad mouth an employee to customers or other employees.

When we find that a team member has made a mistake I look at the situation like Eddie did.

  • Did we prepare the employee for this?
    Did we have a clear cut policy?
    Was that policy explained?

If the answer to any of those is dubious, you have to stand by them. You also have to counsel them.

I can probably write for another hour on all of the things I learned from Ed.

I think I can best sum it up like this:

  • Lead by example.
    Do your job and, do it well.
    Treat your team with respect and if discipline is needed, do it right away and then move on.
    Always be available to listen to an employee and if it is in your power to help them, do it.
    Let them know when they do a great job. This goes a long way.
    Be a friend.
    Be a leader.

I was fortunate enough to have had a man like Ed Kelley in my life as a friend, boss and mentor.
I will miss him greatly.

I am sure that there are countless other people who feel exactly the same way.

Last night a friend and I were talking about Eddie, and he said Ed was a great guy.

I told him that Ed was a great man. There’s a difference.

Rest in peace my friend.



If you are reading this and you knew Kell, please share it on your social media.



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