Disclaimer! I am a first year CS/Applied math master student so I do understand very little in how academia works. I am trying to fix it before I go into PhD.
I have discovered a scientist who works in the field I am interested in. This scientists is very successful career-wise. The scientists finished a prestigious university and had stays in very good places. Now the scientists is an assistant prof in a high-ranking US university.
However, literally >90 % of his papers were written in co-authorship (as a rule, not the first nor the last author) with other more experienced researcher who we recognized as leaders in the fields. In fact, the only solo paper the scientist has is ones thesis! All PhD students so far have been also co-advised.
I have very little research experience but it seems to me that coming up with a good idea one can further develop is the trickiest part. Implementation (or, sometimes, even writing down actual proofs) is a technical work. I guess that the coauthorship was earned for some implementation work. It seems to me that there are much more people capable of / actually doing these technical work both in academia and in industry who do not get such recognition as the aforementioned scientist.
I may be envy but I find very little proofs of that scientist actual skills. Instead I have a feeling that the scientist makes very wise political decisions or is good as self-advertising.
Also I did very limited empirical studies and found that researchers who have highly-cited solo papers tend to have higher (4K +) citation counts then those who have almost exclusively co-authored papers.
My question is many-fold:
is what I have described normal? Update. Is it normal to have almost exclusively co-authored papers?
what should I do to mimic that behavior. It does not seem to be noble at all but apparently this is how successful academia people work.
Are indeed funding and promotions based on citation counts? If this is not the case, how those researchers without solo papers are assessed?
Is it true that those researcher who has successful solo papers are much better supervisors?
Update. I am talking here about theoretical research in CS/Applied Math. I guess in other fields there are many more opportunities for equally valuable contributions of many sides.