I wanted to have this post’s title as “Leading Your Tribe And Product Development Like A Boss – Learning From John Saddington“. The only challenge is that my very SEO savvy 8bit developed Standard Theme told me it would be too long and unfriendly.

There’s enough talk about the death of SEO, but that’s for another post… Anyways, also, I think it would look messy as a headline. Before I get distracted or too carried away about headlines, I should get back to why I’m writing this post.

I’ve followed John, from the 8bit days and before he killed Tentblogger. I kinda got my feet as a blogger learning from him (and Michael Hyatt Check out his book, Platform, Get Noticed In A Noisy World). Focus!

leading like a baws

I’ve experienced the evolution of Standard Theme under John’s leadership and backed one of his coolest projects, Pressgram. As a fairly avid user of the app I’ve closely followed not only its development but drew some leadership lessons from John by way of observation.


This may seem rather obvious but is critical for success of any and every leader. One of the things John did well, from the start, is communicate a clear vision. Vision doesn’t necessarily have to be simple, but it must be communicated clearly. ‘Everyone’ must understand it. Not necessarily support it, but understand it.

I’m a fan of obvious. Every leader is responsibility for making sure vision never leaks. That people always know they why behind the what and how. Saddington did this consistently.

Bigger Circle

Genius is amplified through releasing your vision to other people [Click to Tweet]. One of the most significant marks of Pressgram is community. Again, this is obvious but it is about the way it is done. The most significant lesson in this point may be:

Take great care who you involve and at what stage you do so 

In leadership, you need different kinds of people and different skill sets. This is important even as far as product development is concerned. You cannot include everyone at every stage.

Do as much as you can to identify your needs and the kind of people you need at different stages. Pressgram has a great community team, who do what they do in addition to their normal lives (whatever that is).


As great as momentum is, it is easy to fall victim of it and lose sight of your focus. A significant part of Pressgram is version 2.0… The greater story is not the version, it is the journey to it.

As part of moving forward it is critical for leaders and developers to make sure that every, no matter how minute, action helps purpose of their intent. Version 1 of Pressgram had a social layer, which was not necessarily the core reason for Pressgram’s existence.

Every leader or developer must have guts to take huge and well thought action especially when it comes to alignment to vision.

One of the things John did well was making the decision and communicating the drastic change for the future of the app. This is an example ‘simple’ yet significant and necessary communication.


When you’re going to make changes, communicate, communicate and communicate. Forget the myths of communicating change. John has a clear sense of responsibility to the users and community of Pressgram, hence the constant communication. It doesn’t make sense for leaders or development not to communicate.

Tweet, blog; whatever you do, have a clear way of communication. Besides that, make sure those you serve know where you do this. Be accessible for communication to you. Leading like a ‘boss‘ can also be engaging those you serve in the comments of your blog posts. John does this well. (How do you make the time, John?!)


I’m not sure if Saddington did this consciously but in communicating version update I picked up an undertone of scalability.

Leaders and developers, keeping and addressing scalability issues is not an option. Great impact (whatever that is) is linked to the scalability of your product and tribe.

Out Loud

I tend to annoy Ingrid when I think out loud. It is not easy undoing thirty-something years of practice. In the context of leadership and product development, thinking out loud is like outsourcing brain power. John, through bloggingasked people’s opinions. I have no doubt some of those conversations sparked new ideas and enhanced existing ones.

Innovators are often loud-thinkers [Click to Tweet]

Sometimes isolation is the enemy of innovation. The challenge of leadership is identifying when brainpower / processing is necessary.


Sustained impact means finding ways of not only seeing your product survive into the future but thrive. Because of relationship with the community, it wasn’t a difficult thing to include in-app purchases in version 2.0 of Pressgram. (In my thinking relationship was critical for that move).

Many leaders and developers lose out on sustained success because they’re thinking and acting ‘survival’ instead of ‘success’ (however defined)

In planning your product or future of your enterprise, what provision for oxygen, those things that allow life and thriving, in place? This may mean making bold moves, such as losing (seemingly) significant features, which may sometimes be nothing but superfluity.


Leading your tribe and product development is a combination of leading people and processes [Click to Tweet]

There are a few other lessons I’ve learned from observing John and the story of Pressgram unfold (and continue to do so) but I will have to end here, for now. There are a few more things I could share from observations.. However, one of the most important things for growing leaders is reflection. It will save the the trouble of going forward into the past. Ciao!

[book link is affiliate | photo credit: ylmworkshop (cc)]

Published by Blessing Mpofu

just a guy changing the world

Join the Conversation


Be a part of the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Yeah John has offered so much. still does. I remember the old tent blogger days. Heck, it was an about me for twitter: “I’m a tentblogger.” But never got to understand what he taught to the fullest. Don’t know why. Now, his philosophy in clarity and simple is sinking in. He pretty much encouraged to get my feet wet in iOS development just recently. oh no!

    I search my name in his blog and it dates me back to early 2010. Yeah, I’ve been following since then.

    I don’t think we’ve ever met.

    1. :-) yeah, i’ve found his material and outlook refreshing and non-cliché. i think the challenge for everyone is to find their unique “message” and to communicate it in simple and clear way…