One common plot element is a low level worker who rises to the top of the command structure in his organization through hard work, persistence and skill. This trope is when a low level worker is suddenly raised to a high position simply because they acted in a heroic manner and saved the day during a dangerous situation, regardless of their actual qualifications.
Consider Bob, a worker on a starship who would like to be captain, but is too young and inexperienced. One day there's a disaster aboard ship and Bob saves everyone by bravely risking his life to shut down the ship's main reactor before it explodes and kills everyone. The ship's captain was killed in the accident and Bob is unanimously chosen as the new captain, even though he's completely unqualified to captain a space ship.
- You Are in Command Now: Bob becomes captain because everyone higher in his chain of command is dead.
- Closest Thing We Got: Bob becomes captain of the starship because he's the only person on board with space experience.
- Falling into the Cockpit: Bob becomes captain of the starship because he happens to be on the bridge when all of the other bridge personnel are killed.
- Expose the Villain, Get His Job: Bob becomes captain because he found out that the previous captain was the villain and put a stop to his Evil Plan.
- Cincinnatus: where Bob is given the power but resolutely refuses to keep it.
- In Star Trek (2009) James Kirk gets promoted to captain of the USS Enterprise after saving the Earth from Nero despite the fact he graduated from the academy less then a week earlier and already didn't have a spotless discipline record.
- In Angels and Demons, before it turns out he was the man responsibly for it being there the first place the cardinals seriously consider making father Patrick McKenna the new Pope for saving the Vatican city from an Antimatter bomb by flying it away to a safe distance in a helicopter.
- In the live action Thunderbirds movie Alan Tracy gets made a full member of the team after saving the day.... despite the fact he's only FOURTEEN YEARS OLD!!
- Working Girl. After Tess proves that Katherine stole her idea, Katherine is fired and Tess gets an "entry level" executive job that is functionally equivalent to Katherine's.
- In the Medals for Everyone ending of Evolution, Wayne is made a firefighter despite having failed his exam at the beginning of the film. He actually shows that he is qualified throughout the film (by driving a fire truck, operating the hose, and being generally heroic), but not in a way that the authority figures would be aware of it.
- The Last Starfighter. During the movie the entire Starfighter corps was wiped out, leaving only Alex Rogan to fight the Ko-Dan Armada. He succeeds in destroying it, and at the end of the movie, the leader of the Star League asks him to rebuild the Starfighter corps. There's just one problem: although Alex is the best Starfighter pilot alive (mainly because he's the only Starfighter pilot alive), he has no particular organizational/military skills or experience, which would be required to perform such a task.
- In The Phantom Menace, Jar Jar Binks goes straight from being banished to being a general after helping the Nabooan humans and the Gungans get along. One wonders why they didn't make him an ambassador (or at least some kind of diplomat) instead.
- In Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers starts out as a fresh private who becomes Captain America for propaganda purposes, but is made an official Captain after his rescue of imprisoned troops and capture of HYDRA weaponry.
- In Star Trek:Deep Space Nine episode Valiant Tim Watters is promoted to captain of the USS Valiant on these grounds and ends up destroying the ship as a result of poor judgement
- a war hero from the Bajoran resistance to the Cardassian occupation, gets a new title dedicated to him, Navarch, as well as becoming the Bajoran liaison to Deep Space Nine. He felt qualified for neither
- This has tragic consequences in Third Watch. "Doc" is a highly competent and heroic paramedic who regularly declines promotions to supervisor because it is a desk job. He is finally guilted into taking the promotion after nine-eleven but it soon becomes apparent that he cannot handle the job. When he is fired he has a nervous breakdown and ends up taking the fire station hostage.
- Merlin gets his job as Arthur's manservant as a 'reward' from Uther for saving Arthur's life.
- In Irresponsible Captain Tylor, the title character is Kicked Upstairs after accidently(!) resolving a hostage situtation to command of the Soyokaze. The strategy to sideline him backfires dramatically.
- subversion: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: After the first arc ends, the heroes who defeated the Evil Overlord are all in charge of some government department or other. Unfortunately, it turns out Hot-Blooded-ness works well for piloting mecha that run on enthusiasm, but not so much for politics.
- One of Ciaphas Cain's earlier adventures recounts that the men who were with him during the desperate defense of the local Arbites (police) station against invading genestealers were all promoted in the end. They were there in the first place because they'd gotten drunk and rowdy in the local bars and brothels, he was just there to get them out of custody. One Guardsman even notes that his new officer stripes just don't feel right, but Cain makes him a lot happier by remarking that a man of his discipline record won't keep them long.