Coach's Casebook

Book Review: Why Make Eagles Swim by Bill Munn

Book Review: Why Make Eagles Swim by Bill Munn

Book Review: Why Make Eagles Swim by Bill Munn

eaglesswimFor those of you that have read my other reviews, you will know that I am an advocate of helping people find their talents and focus on developing them to the achieve their highest potential. Bill Munn’s book, Why Make Eagles Swim?: Embracing Natural Strengths in Leadership & Life typifies this approach and provides the reader with some excellent insights into key performance attributes and how they can be applied to develop both the individual and the team that you are leading.


Munn highlights the need to focus on talents by comparing the hunting styles of 2 birds. The Loon and the Eagle…


If an eagle walks the shoreline looking for fish, it is not going to be as effective in this style of hunting as a Loon, which can wade and swim to where the fish are.



Generations of adaptation have provided the Loon with the attributes to swim and fish and this has made the Loon a success at fishing in this manner. The eagle has an entirely different set of attributes and even if it could swim, it isn’t well suited to the swimming and fishing style of hunting. It needs to be a winged hunter to maximise the return on its attributes. People are very similar. They could work to develop a weaker attribute, but they are more likely to thrive when they yoke their strengths and focus where their attributes are.


Following this approach, Munn has provided us with a list of the features, an ‘attribute inventory’, which he explores in the remainder of the book. These are:

  • Achiever – Motivated by accomplishment
  • Commander – Motivated by recognition
  • Communicator – Talented at getting their point across
  • Conceptual – Able to find clarity in complexity
  • Creator – Motivated by exploiting new ideas
  • Decisive – Motivated by being in charge
  • Developer – Talented at improving the performance of others
  • Learner – Motivated by gaining knowledge and ideas
  • Logician – Talented at structured thinking
  • Orderly – focused on detail rather than concepts
  • Persuasive – Talented in gaining agreement
  • Reconciler – Motivated by harmony and avoiding conflict
  • Relational – Talented in understanding how others feel
  • Responsible – Motivated by delivering on the commitment

Having identified your talents (Munn’s website offers a tool for this here) we now have a variety of ways in which to exploit and apply them. As a leader or a manager, understanding the attributes and considering them as you watch your people will allow you to identify them in both individuals and teams.

Munn groups attributes based on how strong they are for the individual…In power alley, there are attributes that you struggle not to do, whereas there will be traits that are not at all natural to you.

As an individual, you will look to exploit your ‘Power Alley’ attributes and find others to compensate for your weaknesses with their strengths. As a leader or manager, you will look to build a team that has complementary attributes so that you have a balanced team with few if any areas of weakness. Munn provides a matrix to assist in this task.
Munn also explores where contrasting attributes may cause problems and tension in a team. Having this awareness will allow potential problems to be considered and addressed prior to the friction becoming a problem.

Munn also explores how different attributes can influence communications. Particularly well covered is the exploration of attributes in the sales and leadership domain and the alignment of attributes to differing occupations.

Why Make Eagles Swim? then is another great book that offers insight into identifying the strengths of individuals and helping them exploit those strengths in both work and life.

Dare to Aspire

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