In 2003, as Casey Crawford put on his Super Bowl championship ring, deep down he knew he had suited up for the last time. During his three-year NFL stint, he'd been hard at work during his offseasons learning everything he could about real estate. So the decision to "retire" from the NFL wasn't a hard one.
Fast forward to 2018--Crawford is now the CEO of Movement Mortgage, which ranks at No. 1,295 on this year's Inc. 5000 list.
I sat down with Crawford for an interview on the Follow My Lead podcast and the first thought that came to my mind when he walked out of the room was: "That's the best CEO in America that no one has heard of."
The reason is simple, and it's something that every business leader can learn from: He teaches leadership and lives it out for his people through a 4 letter word. L-O-V-E. That's right I said it and Crawford uses it.
Take, for example, the Movement Mortgage mission statement: "We exist to love and value people by leading a movement of change in our industry, corporate cultures, and communities."
Crawford says it's not just a mission statement on a sign--it's something he and his team try to live out every day.
We define love in the Welder Leader Program as: To contribute to someone's long term success and well being.
Crawford lives this out through his actions. In fact, he told me during our interview that he thinks consciously about culture every day:
You spend more time and energy with the people you work with than your families, so it's extremely important to be a part of a culture that is fun, uplifting, helping you stay healthy and grow as a person. All we did was try to architect a company culture around the premise that people are worthy of love and value and we want to lift that up to help people be their best selves.
One way the company lives this out is through a program called "Love Works." It's an optional program that has given over $1 million back to employees by inviting them to give portions of their paychecks to a fund run by the Movement Foundation. The program is confidential and allows for any Movement employee to apply for financial assistance if an unexpected need arises.
Not everyone participates--but the stories and impacts this program has delivered are culture-building. It provides a sense of community within the business.
Making an impact on the community is also at the core of Crawford's Christian faith. He says it's part of Movement's responsibility to change what corporations are known for, and one way to do that is to "serve those who are underserved."
After reading a study from Harvard University and Cal-Berkeley that Charlotte, North Carolina was ranked last for people born into poverty to move up the economic ladder, Crawford knew he and his team had to do something. They founded the Movement School: a charter school in Charlotte which opened its doors earlier this month. The Movement Foundation contributed $12 million.
He doesn't stop there as the entire team has pitched in both financially and with service to help Hurricane Harvey victims in Houston.
One thing I know for sure: No matter what business you're in, Crawford's example of leading with Love, is one to take seriously and learn from.
A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.
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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and host of the Follow My Lead Podcast. He is also the author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. Follow him on instagram @johngeades.
John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College.