As I walked through the airport recently, a quick scan of the magazine rack showed a preponderance of glossy covers featuring photographs of single individuals: a CEO, a celebrity, a politician. This focus on the individual is an extension of a narrative tradition that goes back at least as far as Homer. We like stories about heroes, villains, and victims, and those stories are brought to life through compelling characters.
This tradition is also reflected in how we think about leaders. We relate the rise and fall of organizations through the stories of their executives, the successes and failures of armies through the exploits of their generals, and the triumph or defeat of social movements through the journeys of their most visible advocates. Jobs. Patton. Bezos. Mandela. Schultz.