Leading Your Tribe And Product Development Like ‘A Boss’!

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)]

The Tainting Of Cynicism

Relationships are key to great leadership and, well a great life. Rather, great relationships are key to great leadership and pleasant life. There are some ‘general laws of life’ that when violated affect everything, even in leadership, because, well, leaders lead people, primarily.

Trust allows leaders, and everyone else in general, to be vulnerable. Vulnerability increases trust and increased trust produces stronger teams and relationships.

Some will claim they just aren’t team people or they rather ‘fly solo’… Reality contradicts that. Not absolutely, but to a significant extent. To live and lead well, we have to trust someone or some people, at some point. It is folly to think you can be everything to yourself every time.

tainting of cynicism

We are social beings. We need to be needed and are needed in one way or another This means that cynics can live and lead under difficult circumstances. Which, of course, is of their own making.

Cynicism violates trusts at every level and turn. With a violation of trust comes weak teams and relationships. Cynicism doesn’t believe in ‘no-strings-attached benevolence’. Thus a loss of resources and a lack of synergy.

Cynicism robs leaders and teams of what is right about people. I’m not advocating naivety, I’m advocating trust.

People can be unpredictable. Trying to unwrap every possible motive for every possible action is nothing but a waste of valuable emotional and mental energy. Be diligent as you build teams and relationships. Be wary but also make sure you have a clear point of trust.

Leaders who lead with trust have teams with greater unity and productivity. Relationships built on trust flourish and are more fulfilling. Cynicism taints. It robs.

There is always that guy the one who will give you twenty thousand reasons not to ever trust people. The funny thing is that they never advocated not being trusted for themselves. It is always other or those people you need to be weary of. In fact it should be the cynics we should be cynical of…

People who advocate mistrust of just about everyone, should not be trusted themselves [Click to Tweet]

Trust. Cynicism taints and does so, robbing you and those you come into contact with [Click to Tweet]

Cynicism shuts the door of generosity to and from others. It keeps us from making our teams and the world at large a greater place. It keeps people locked up prisons of insignificance, because there will always be people who want to take advantage…

Making the world a greater place involves risking contact with cynics; never let that stop you [Click to Tweet]

Not all people have evil intent toward you. There may be people like that, but I guarantee you (whatever its worth) there are more people interested in your success in life and as a leader than those against.

[Photo via Unsplash]

Things That Cannot Be Separated From Leading

Some things just go together. And, you cannot expect to lead without encountering some things. There are some leadership components that are not removable add-ons. You are guaranteed to have them. Period.

Leaders cannot escape taking responsibility for their vision and teams. They also don’t have the luxury of placing the blame for their team’s failure on their team. They must own it.

Continue reading “Things That Cannot Be Separated From Leading”