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Asskicking Equals Authority

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"I'm the leader because I'm a very good fighter."

What happens when the people of the Planet of Hats believe Authority Equals Asskicking? They create a civilization, nation, or culture that bases its social hierarchy and governance on whosoever is strongest among them. Obviously, this is likely to lead to a lot of Klingon Promotions and/or Cain and Abels.

Usually, the base culture or organization is of The Social Darwinist variety or the Proud Warrior Race. They will benefit from great strength and martial ability, but don't expect them to put much value on teamwork. Their main problem will usually be that they place such importance on personal power that they eschew not just The Power of Friendship but tactical cooperation in favor of individual glory. This makes them vulnerable to cultures placing more value on teamwork as the relatively weaker warriors will be far better coordinated.


The Leader of such a group is usually the Big Bad/Big Good and has Authority Equals Asskicking up the wazoo. It's especially likely for there to be one or two Starscreams hovering near the main bad guy. Grunts will usually be sociopathic enough for the heroes not to feel bad about killing, but you can expect them to be especially easy to turn with displays of kindness because Machiavelli Was Wrong.

If they aren't evil, then expect them to swear everlasting fealty to the hero once he bests their leader in combat. (It's a good thing they don't usually switch to the villains' side when the hero loses that second act skirmish.) These types will benefit both from their Darwinian upbringing and The Power of Friendship to easily massacre most enemy mooks.

One thing they have going for them is that they acknowledge the same strength in outsiders, as well. If a Mighty Whitey manages to defeat one of them (indeed, the plot often requires that he does this) the majority will acknowledge him as the new leader. For an especially delicious twist, the leader of such a group will be an X hater (misogynist, racist, anti-human, whatever) and of course, a person from said group will beat them sooner or later and earn control of the tribe.


(Heroes who do this out of necessity will usually renounce the position once they no longer need it and give it back to the old leader or another more worthy person.)

Neatly satisfies the Sliding Scale of Villain Threat and Sorting Algorithm of Evil. Avoids Villain Decay, as there is a logical reason for a bigger bad to replace the current one (although it better not be that Smug Snake). You can expect these groups to be easily divided by an Evil Power Vacuum or Enemy Civil War; it's often implied that should they ever get their act together or a strong enough leader to unify all of them, the heroes would lose handily.

Other exceptions are friends, in which case pissing each other off is often par for the course. Or if your boss is scarier. More positively, in organizations or cultures that are good, The Hero might earn their cred once they've bested a number of enemies, thus proving their worth. Think of it as attaining their Awesome Moment of Crowning through Moments of Awesome.


Not to be confused with Authority Equals Asskicking, which often overlaps with this trope. The distinction depends on what type of story you're telling. A story about a contender rising through the hierarchy by kicking the asses of his rivals counts as Asskicking Equals Authority. A story about a hero confronting a villainous organisation whose members became ever tougher as he closes in on the leader counts as Authority Equals Asskicking. In other words, if you're The Leader because you're the toughest, then that is this trope; if you're the toughest because you're The Leader then that is the other trope. Note that a leader who simply happens to be strong is neither trope.

When this trope backfires, the usual outcome is Gung Holier Than Thou - a leader who has no respect whatsoever of his subordinates, and who controls his minions solely by threat of physical violence.

See their Super-Trope, Badass in Charge, for any kind of badass in charge. And the other Super-Trope, Superior Successor, for why the new authority kicks the old one's ass. Compare Heroism Equals Job Qualification and Challenging the Chief, which when one specific position in the hierarchy requires physical force but the whole system normally doesn't work this way.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Berserk: When the King of Midland created the Black Dog Knights out of the kingdom's worst convicts, the sadistic Apostle Wyald successfully invoked the trope by persuading the King to make whoever proved himself the toughest the leader of the others. Wyald gave the only guy big enough to challenge him a Cruel and Unusual Death, cowing the rest and giving the King no doubt about who was fit to lead. Subsequently deconstructed in that Wyald has no qualification to lead besides being the strongest fighter, causing his men to die using Leeroy Jenkins tactics and by killing anybody who annoys him.
  • In Haou Airen, Hakuron went up the Triads's ranks via basically kicking all kind of ass to get there. Also, that's how he recruited Di Long into the group.
  • Pokémon: Whenever Ash faces an Elite Four member, he will lose, no questions asked. And 9 times out of 10, he'll absolutely choke.
  • Naruto:
    • The hidden villages of the Five Great Shinobi Countries are each led by a Kage; candidates are required to be one of the strongest ninjas in the village. However, deficiencies in intelligence and/or character can sometimes disqualify a candidate. In general, this principle of allowing only the best fighters to take the top leadership position seems to apply to any nation/organization run by ninjas and/or samurai.
    • While Hokage candidates also need to be approved by the Hidden Leaf's elite ninjas in order to take office, it's still implied that they won't even look your way unless you've proven yourself as one of the village's best.
    • This principle of requiring both combat and leadership abilities applies to promotions in general; the Chunin Exams themselves function more as secret tests of character, since merely winning all of your fights will not guarantee a rank up.
  • Inuyasha: Bankotsu tells Inu-Yasha that he's the leader of the Band of Seven because he can outfight the other six.
  • Since one of the main, and most important requirements for a person to become a General of the Black Order in D.Gray-Man is to have over 100% synchronization with their Innocence, this is naturally what happens.
  • Bleach:
    • The Gotei 13 is a military meritocracy. The only way to get to the higher ranks is to have the talent to be better at asskicking than everyone lower in rank. The captains of the 13 divisions are so powerful that they're the core strength of the Gotei 13: there are 13 captains and 6,000 soldiers in total, but if the 13 captains are defeated, the organisation falls. The head captain, Yamamoto, is in charge of all the divisions and all the other captains. He got that position a thousand years ago by being the most powerful and dangerous thug of all. He's more powerful than most of the other captains put together.
    • The Espada are designed to oppose the strength of the Shinigami captains. They are therefore designed to be as powerful as possible. They were originally created as Arrancar and fought their way to the top. The ones in charge are therefore the ones who are strong enough to keep their position from any challengers. Prior to Aizen setting up the Espada system Barragan had taken control of Hueco Mundo by conquering part of it and then defeating any challengers to his authority.
    • The Vandenreich has a similar set-up. They are led by the Stern Ritters who are the most powerful Quincies and have been even further enhanced by the Quincy King's special Schrift. Yhwach himself is the most powerful Quincy. In fact, he is so powerful, he created the Quincy lineage and can therefore not only beat down other Quincies, but steal their power whenever he wants and redistribute it among other Quincies or just keep it all for himself.
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba:
    • The Hashira get to their position by being goddamn good at their jobs. You either kill a bunch of demons or kill a Lower Rank. Neither are easy tasks.
    • Many of the Twelve Kizuki (especially the Upper Ranks) managed to earn their position by being powerful demons on their own right and thus attracting Muzan's attention.
    • Yoriichi singlehandedly inspired the Demon Slayer Corps to instill a hierarchy system thanks to his absurd skills being so far above anyone in his time, the Hashira ranks were put into place thanks to him after his sword was given the unique “Metsu” (Destroy) graving in its blade, after that all Pillar swords were to have the “Akkimesatsu” (Destroy All Evil) graving in the blades.
  • Raoh's goal in conquering the world in Fist of the North Star is to bring about a society like this, albeit one that is much more united than the Crapsack World that exists after the nuclear war.
  • The Three Kings arc in YuYu Hakusho plays with this. At first, there are three warring countries, each led by the strongest fighter. Eventually, everyone agrees to hold a tournament and crown the winner ruler of all demon world (until the next tournament). The strangest thing is, it works perfectly, even though none of the protagonists made it into the finals. Neither of the two surviving kings win either. Instead, an old sparring partner of the recently deceased third king wins. Somewhat of a subversion in that the winner wasn't necessarily the strongest; the way the match-ups played out, some competitors lost their fights because they were worn out. But all the strongest are Blood Knights who like this method of choosing their leader, so they support the winner.
  • Tenchi Muyo! Word of God states that this is how becoming Emperor of Jurai works. Ordinary Earthling Seina Yamada from Tenchi Muyo! GXP learns that stumbling across a Humongous Mecha with a seed for one of Jurai's space trees catapulted him near the top of the list of potential heirs. The title character, Tenchi Masaki, would be at the top of the list if he had any interest in the job; the creator's semi-official doujin works indicated that eventually he will.
  • Due to general Feudal Future feel in The Five Star Stories, this trope is at full power there. Only Headdliners could manage the Humongous Mecha of their world, and because of this all who exhibit such abilities generally happen to become nobility. All in all, given the general belligerence of the Joker society, it is to be expected. As an example, after that fateful dust-off with Lachesis, Bugle de'Leiser immediately bowed to her authority even though he was initially ideologically opposed to it. It also counts as Defeat Means Friendship, as he later was genuinely friendly to her, despite trying to rape her before getting his ass kicked to the next Friday.
  • Specifically invoked in Saiunkoku Monogatari when Rou Ensei explains how he ended up as the Governor of an entire province even though he hadn't passed any of the examinations normally required to qualify for government office: the Sa clan was causing so much trouble in the province that the Imperial court needed to appoint a governor who'd be able to survive their repeated assassination attempts. Ensei was their guy. (That he had The Chessmaster Tei Yuushun supporting him as Lieutenant Governor helped to keep the actual administrative side of things running smoothly as well.)
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX has North Academy, where new students have to duel through a forty-man gauntlet to find out their rank. Chazz fights his way to the top and is immediately crowned head of the freshman class. Not only that, but they also have to do it with a deck they constructed from scratch using cards found outside the academy
  • The society of Jungle Planet in Transformers Cybertron is based on this. A variant exists on Velocitron, where the planet ruler is whoever is the fastest.
  • Apparently the set-up of Shibusen in Soul Eater. The more successful the members, the higher their rank of between one to three stars. However, the time the main cast spent as Almighty Janitors would suggest this is less about strict hierarchy than it is about whatever Shinigami feels like putting his students through for his own reasons/amusement.
  • Code Geass:
    • Not really legal — though it is implied that Charles killed his own father to get the position (at which point it became retroactively legal, since the Emperor is an absolute monarch). Lelouch manages to become Emperor by killing his father, and forcing the rest of his siblings to comply through violence and coercion. By which I mean mind control. Head of the Knight Bismarck Waldstein disagrees with the concept... but finds himself coming down with a case of death, with his killer taking Bismarck's place.
    • The Knights of the Round play it very straight, though. While they're technically made up of the best pilots in The Empire, they're shown to be given command responsibility on par with the top brass, if only because they tend to be as effective as most battalions on their own.
  • In Record of Lodoss War most rulers are semi-retired adventurers of great fame. Kashue, Parn, Etoh, Shiris, and Spark were all adventurers for many years, before they became rulers of their own countries. Fahn, Beld, Ashram, and Ryona were also great warriors as well.
  • Basically the entire premise of the Queen's Blade series. In a nutshell: assorted women of various fetishes fight for the right to become queen for a year. Even has two spinoff series for more characters and more fun.
  • One Piece:
    • Baroque Works, where one's spot in the organization is determined by how much ass you can kick. If lower-ranked members can eliminate higher-ranked ones, they can move up in the ranks. Most of the top ranks are Devil Fruit users.
    • The Marines also play this straight. Captain (now Vice Admiral) Smoker gets to keep his position and often promoted despite being a Cowboy Cop largely thanks to his fighting ability and powerful devil fruit. After the time skip, the Marines have also recruited two new members entirely from outside the organization and promoted them straight to Admirals, because of their power.
    • The Animal Kingdom Pirates led by Kaido have this as part of their crew culture. The ones at the top are the strongest fighters the crew has to offer, and crewmates may challenge them for their spot with Kaido's permission, invoking this trope.
  • Claymore has this. The organization that Claymores work for only has forty-seven Claymores active at any one time. If a Claymore dies, all the Claymores below her are automatically promoted one rank — and if a new Claymore is powerful enough to take a higher rank than #47, all the Claymores weaker than her are automatically demoted. Of course, while Asskicking Equals Authority applies to Claymores while they're on missions, the ones who are actually in charge of the organization seem to have no physical power at all.
  • Invoked by the (probable) Big Bad Naosada Washizu from Gamaran: He has about thirty sons and rules over a region famous for martial arts and full of powerful warriors. His plan? Each of his sons will hire a Ryuu (martial art school), and those Ryuu will fight in the great Unabara Tournament: the heir with the strongest Ryuu will become the new Daimyo, with the members as his vassals.
  • Subverted in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: after the Time Skip most of the members of Team Dai-Gurren are put in charge of the newly formed government entirely because they're such huge heroes. But, being for the most part a bunch of rowdy jackasses, the majority of them don't have any talent for or interests in politics and they know it. Until there's ass to be kicked, they're content to just sit back and be figureheads for the ones who actually know what they're doing.
  • In 12 Beast's alternate dimension of Live-Earth, populated by monster girls and monster boys, positions of authority are rewarded to those that defeat their predecessor and/or the competition on the way up there. It really brings a new meaning to "biting and clawing your way up the ranks."
  • Attack on Titan:
    • Attack on Titan deconstructs this. The military system in place makes sense on paper: the best and brightest defend humanity's center (the Military Police Brigade) and the rest either maintain the walls or go on scouting missions (the Garrison and the Survey Corps, respectively). This means ultimately the best soldiers are likely never to be where they're needed most, making them useless to the overall war effort. Few of them ever actually participate in combat. Additionally, any exercises that they do would involve drilling with their guns (as they are responsible for maintaining law and order) so the 3DMG skills that got them to the top are stagnated and see little further use because they're at the top.
    • Played straight with the enemy forces of the Homeland and/or Beast Titan. If you prove yourself better in a fight than your superior, you're the new authority. Challenge him and lose, though...
  • The Vagan in Mobile Suit Gundam AGE has a tendency to promote X-Rounder ace pilots to high-ranking places in its military. This has on several occasions led to putting people in command of things they aren't nearly qualified enough for, such as Desil Galette, a seven-year-old given command of a mobile suit squadron despite having all of the mood swings and tantrums that age would imply, and later, his brother Zeheart, a teenager who somehow keeps climbing the ranks despite not once succeeding in a military operation and getting many, many subordinates needlessly killed in the process.
  • This rule applies to both sides of the conflict in Tokyo Ghoul. Ghoul society is incredibly Darwinian, with leaders of gangs and Wards earning their position through being the strongest around. On the human side, the CCG promotes primarily based on accomplishments in the field. Anyone in a position of authority has earned it, and the elite Special Class Investigators are the best of the best.
  • Vampire Knight: According to Yagari Touga in chapter 52, the president of the Hunter Association is chosen for his ability to dominate the hunters. Zero having become the strongest hunter is therefore chosen as Kaien Cross' successor.
  • Musuko ga Kawaikute Shikataganai Mazoku no Hahaoya: Demons are generally inclined toward direct action than subtlety. As a consequence, many are also inclined to use brute force to keep others in line. This is especially true of the hard-liners resistant to reconciling with humanity among the Self-Administrated Zone. This works out for the protagonists when they get into a fight with hard-liners, as they immediately back down when Lorem, famous for being one of the strongest demons around, fully demonifies in front of them and they fully cooperate with the group's desire to negotiate.
  • Subverted in The Heroic Legend of Arslan. While Arslan is a decent fighter, there are those in his group that are better fighters, such as Daryun, Gieve and Farangis.

    Comic Books 
  • In Judge Dredd, in the aftermath of the Apocalypse War, a group of robots set up an independent city in the ruins of Mega-City One, with a wrestler droid as king. The law is that anybody who wants to change the way things are run must beat the king in a wrestling match.
  • In Wakanda of Black Panther, they hold a tournament where anyone can challenge the current king for the right to take the throne. Also, Erik Killmonger once briefly became the new Black Panther after killing T'Challa in combat (T'Challa got better).
  • In the X-Men: The End limited series, an Older and Wiser Kitty Pryde (not the best asskicker on the X-Men, but still a good one) becomes President of the United States.
  • The Sand Masters of White Sand have based their entire Fantastic Rank System on this — the more powerful the Sand Master, the higher he or she is in the diem, with Underfens being run-of-the-mill magic users and Mastrells — One Man Armies.
  • In the Joker graphic novel, Killer Croc is the leader of his gang due to his strength and intimidation. When Johnny tries to give him orders, Croc quickly puts Johnny in his place by picking him up singlehandedly and then hanging him from a hook.
  • Black Moon Chronicles: Hell is ruled by whatever demon is strong enough to fight off any contenders. For aeons, Lucifer kept the other princes in line by being a Bad Boss. When he goes missing with his army, Beelzebub takes over the vacant throne because no one dares to question him, as he immediately demonstrates by devouring a lesser demon who opposes.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Advancement in the Saturnian Empire's court is based on defeating foes through single combat and battle, and disastrous enough defeats result in the loser being stripped of their titles and enslaved.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): After the monarchy is abolished the Amazons, a people who famously value martial arts skills, immediately vote Artemis and Philippus, their two best fighters outside the royal family and Nubia whose other responsibilities made her ineligible, as their new rulers.
  • Monstress: In Issue #26, Maika arrives at Ravenna, an Arcanic city about to be besieged by the Federation. Finding that the city's political and military leaders have fled, leaving the city in panicked chaos, Maika declares that she'll be taking charge of the defenses... and singlehandedly kills a few soldiers who refuse to follow her lead. After that, everyone falls in line.
  • Those Who Speak: Given how the most badass warriors get to lead the Qunari armies, it stands to reason that to make an alliance, you first have to beat the crap out of them.
  • Alien vs. Predator: Discussed in the second, Predator-centric prologue. Tom Strandberg advances the idea with his copilot, Scott Conover, and Scott starts deconstructing it. Tom points out that human political infighting is Not So Different. And of course, the discussion is counterpointed by showing the Predators operating on literal Asskicking Equals Authority.
  • Superman:
  • Les Aigles de Rome:
    • To unite the German tribes, Ermanamer has to prove his competence by defeating another German chieftain.
    • Meanwhile, Marcus has to cement his authority over a leaderless Roman garrison by dueling a defiant centurion who had become its leader prior to his arrival.
  • A Distant Soil: The Hierarchy has an internal pecking order based on personal psionic power. Niniri and Sere largely bully the rest, being the strongest psychics of the group. Niniri is the only member of the Ovanan race powerful enough to smack down Sere, and as a result she is the leader of the Hierarchy and the de facto queen of Ovanan.

    Fan Works 
  • Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath's Star Trek TOS writings are all about this. Especially in The Prometheus Design wherein we learn that Spock has been living in a restrained world all these years. Vulcan superiority is their obsessive Author Appeal.
  • Fimblvetrian society works on this principle in Honor for the Enemy.
  • Want to know how to handle impatient hostages you're trying to rescue? Kick the crap of a Mecha Mook, which is what Rob Jackson did in Power Rangers GPX.
  • Played straight in the Final Fantasy VII fanfiction Shinra High SOLDIER. Raw, one-on-one physical combat skill is the sole quality required to become the general of the entire Shinra army, by beating the previous one in the Challenges. Sephiroth, an 18-year-old who had been a soldier for only a few months, defeats Heidegger and becomes general of the entire army. His 16-year-old girlfriend Julia becomes commander by defeating Commander Kinneas.
  • In Paris Burning and the universe it inspired, personifications of cities compete fiercely for the right to be capital of their country. Depending on the traditions of the society and the temperaments of the combatants, these conflicts can be long campaigns of political intrigue and underhanded violence, or simple face-to-face duels.
  • Saito Hiraga invokes this beautifully in Jus Primae Noctis when he storms into the tent with the rebel generals where they’re meeting under truce to negotiate and tells them to sit down, shut up, and surrender to Henrietta or he’ll kill them all. They're not technically bound to obey his orders, since they were trying to use this trope and stage a coup, but they submit.
  • In Origin Story, Alex Harris is able to ignore the Metahuman Registration Act because, to be blunt, the only beings in the Marvel Universe powerful enough to enforce on her just don't give a damn about puny humans and their political squabbles.
  • In the Fan Film Judge Minty, Aquila, the leader of the Cursed Earth outlaws, is by far the most dangerous member due to his vast telekinetic powers, which is presumably also the reason why he's in charge in the first place. When the rest of his gang is quickly picked off by the lizard creatures, he initially manages to hold them off repeatedly before numbers take their toll.
  • In Vapors the Fourth Raikage is held up as an example of why using combat ability as the only requirement for leadership is a bad idea.
  • The God Empress of Ponykind; after Celestia and Luna defeat Discord, the ponies beg them (mostly the former) to become rulers of Equestria, as no one else was strong enough to stand up to Discord, let alone defeat him.
  • Forum of Thrones:
    • The Ironborn are strong believers in this creed. It proves to be a problem for their king, Harren Hoare, whom many see as weak because he does not personally lead raiding parties like many kings before him did. To gain the respect of his men, he has no other choice but to rule his subjects through brutish force.
    • Argilac Durrandon, the Storm King, used to be the best fighter in his kingdom during his younger days. With his advanced age, he is no longer as skilled as he used to be, but still a fearsome warrior and worthy of his Memetic Badass status.
    • His daughter Argella is not much different. Physically, she is not particularly strong, but ever since she became the crown princess, her father subjected her to a rigorous training, to make sure that the future queen of the Stormlands is able to hold her own in any fight.
    • Willfred Reyne is a naturally talented fighter for sure, but his status as the heir to Castamere gave him access to training that really unlocked his true potential.
    • Aegon Targaryen is a lethal warrior with his sword, the Valyrian steel sword Blackfyre, as well as atop his dragon, the even more lethal Balerion.
  • Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters:
    • After Rhouglar's death, Jade takes over his remaining men by knocking out their new leader and telling them she's in charge now.
    • It's made perfectly clear that Tarakudo became King of the Oni by fighting his way to the top.
  • In Son of the Sannin, after receiving the special chakra from Hamura Otsutsuki, Hinata's Byakugan evolves into the Tenseigan. This alone would make her more powerful than any other Hyuga alive once it fully matures, so her mother decides to step down as the clan head and name her as her successor.
  • In The Institute Saga, a reformed Juggernaut ends up ruling Genosha because he ended the civil war there.
  • In Rivalry, for the Haddocks and Hoffersons, winning the honor of killing their first dragon after dragon-training is not just for bragging rights.
    Gobber: An' if Astrid or Hiccup wins, they will be declared Heir to the Throne of Berk, with all the rights an' privileges, blah blah blah.
  • In The Smeet Series, the Sobrekt have this as a key part of their culture, as all positions of authority (from ship captain all the way up to their supreme leader, the Shuryo) can have their incumbents be challenged by underlings, with a one-on-one fight settling the matter. The Irkens find this stupid, but it's pointed out that since they choose their leaders based on height, they have no right to judge.
  • In King Of Thrones, Rodrik Harlaw's reputation as an undefeated duelist gives him more political power among the Might Makes Right culture of the Ironborn. Enough that Balon is wary of facing him.
  • In The Weaver Option Taylor learns that to claim their crown the ancient Aeldari Emperors were required to defeat a Phoenix Lord in combat and either command or kill 666,666 Aeldari nobles. Taylor, having met those requirements during the raid on Commorragh, is able to successfully name herself Empress because the Aeldari never though to exclude other races.

    Films — Animation 
  • At the end of How to Train Your Dragon 2, Toothless becomes the Alpha after challenging and defeating bad guy Drago's enormous Bewilderbeast with the help of the rest of the dragons. The rest of the dragons and the Vikings bow down to him.
  • In The Book of Life, thanks to the Medal of Everlasting Life and Posada's training, Joaquin kicked enough ass to be second-in-command.
  • The Lion King 1½ portrays the Pridelands' monarchy this way. On the one hand, lions have much better homes than meerkats and get more respect. On the other, they have to actively protect said homes from usurpers, their jobs are much more complex than "scurry, sniff, flinch", and lions are so rare that they cannot abandon their roles for any reason. When a meerkat leaves his colony to find himself, there are no negative repercussions; when Simba does the same thing, animals die, and it's his responsibility to fix everything by attacking Scar head-on.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Almost every single action movie hero takes charge of whatever situation they deal with, precisely because they're kicking the most ass and usually there is nobody who wants to challenge them.
  • Aquaman: A member of the royal family can challenge the king to a trial by combat for the throne of Atlantis.
    By bloodshed do the gods make known their will.
  • In Avatar, Jake Sully proves himself the leader of the Na'vi by taking, as his personal mount, the biggest, baddest beast in the sky.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In The Avengers, Captain America has to rally the New York City police to respond to the invading aliens and evacuate the civilians. The police commander on the scene scoffs at Cap's orders, saying that he has no reason to listen to Rogers. Then three aliens suddenly leap down upon them, who Cap beats down in seconds with just his fists and shield. The police commander immediately spins around and begins relaying Cap's orders almost verbatim.
    • In Black Panther, the throne of Wakanda, and mantle of Black Panther, is passed from father to son, but during the coronation ceremony, anyone can challenge for the throne. The king is stripped of his enhanced abilities to make sure the best man wins, not just because of the Panther abilities.
  • As the Necromongers say in The Chronicles of Riddick, "You keep what you kill."
  • The tribe of not-so-friendly neighborhood cannibals in Doomsday uses this trope. At the end, the protagonist takes control of it by delivering them the head of their former leader.
  • Godzilla. He didn't earn the title "King of the Monsters" for nothing. Likewise his 2014 counterpart gets his title through this.
  • Played for laughs in Idiocracy, where President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho is porn superstar and five-time Ultimate Smackdown wrestling champion. Though he was presumably elected, and was popular because of the wrestling and porn. Seeing how physically unimposing but smarter than everyone else in that era Joe Bowers becomes president after him.
  • In Jurassic World, the Indominus rex convinces Owen's Velociraptors to join her side, presumably by discussing her badassery with them. In doing so, she becomes their new Alpha. Owen realises this was possible because I. rex is part-raptor. Thankfully, he's able to use his Parental Substitute status to bring the sisters back to his side.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: When the crew of the Black Pearl is seconds away from mutinying, Captain Barbossa draws his sword and asks which one of them would be willing to challenge him for the captaincy. Everyone backs down, even though they're all immortal.
  • In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the apea believe in following the strongest. Caesar is forced to fight Koba to retake leadership after Koba's failed assassination attempt.
  • The Postman: The Holnists base their leadership on this. Any member can challenge General Bethlehem to be the new leader. The last man who did got both his tongue and balls cut off. However, it's used by the Postman at the end.
  • In The Quick and the Dead, Herod is the mayor of a small town because he has the most hired muscle on his side and he is nigh unbeatable in a gunfight.
  • Optimus Prime earns the Dinobots allegiance in Transformers: Age of Extinction by beating Grimlock in a fight.

  • Many regions of the Society for Creative Anachronism holds crown tourneys every six months where people fight in armored combat to determine who shall be the next king or queen of their kingdom.

  • Visser Three, from the Animorphs series, in The Andalite Chronicles, is a Hork-Bajir Controller with the respectable rank of Sub-Visser Seven. He's promoted to a low Visser rank immediately upon (and explicitly because of) his infestation of Elfangor's commanding officer and becomes the only Andalite-Controller in history. His rise turns meteoric from there. It helps that Visser Three had full access to all of the military knowledge in his host's (a high-ranking though disgraced Andalite warrior-prince) mind. Obtaining a prize like that would definitely warrant a promotion.
  • The Biblical Judges were military leaders of ancient Israel (at the time a loose confederation of tribes) chosen to lead during times of war and were decided by this trope.
  • Rehvenge in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J. R. Ward becomes the supreme ruler of the sympaths by essentially killing the ones in authority.
  • The rank of queen in Branded by Clare London is determined by a war game-style generalship competition.
  • The Brightest Shadow: Played with. The Catai are automatically given a higher rank than normal soldiers, but are subordinate to administrators and politicians. In several human organizations, all the leaders are those who can fight.
  • In Codex Alera, Citizenship requires winning a witnessed duel with an existing Citizen, marrying an existing Citizen, or being granted Citizenship by the First Lord, generally for doing something completely awesome. It's largely hereditary, but that's because furycrafting power is largely hereditary. The biggest barrier to peasants who want to become Citizens is that you have to agree to get someone to duel you to earn Citizenship. A lot of women, especially, note that they can't get anyone to actually fight them, even if they're fully capable of throwing mountains at the chauvinistic jackasses.
  • Cradle Series: The world of Cradle has one rule: The strong can do as they like. There are strict rules of honor and the like, but even they mostly boil down to "I might piss off too many strong people if I do this." Everything is backed by threat of force. Eithan tries to rule more gently, but doesn't have much success, and has to throw his weight around.
  • While Dynastical Council in Crest of the Stars evaluates not only the martial prowess of the potential candidates to the Jade Throne, it's still one of their major consideration, and to ascend to the title of Crown Prince, successful aspirant should rise in the military ranks to the position of Commander in Chief — with the Council constantly judging his or her performance and vetting the promotions accordingly.
  • In The Dinosaur Lords, Jaume exploits this to get his highly-apprehensive subordinates to obey him. When a wild Allosaurus starts picking off camp followers, Jaume kills it himself rather than waiting for heavier weapons. It gives him few weeks' respite.
  • In the Dirigent Mercenary Corps series, it's a minor plot point in the first book that officer cadets are not allowed to graduate and become officers until they've served a combat tour. Until then, they command no one and are just grunts like the enlisted men.
  • The wizards of the Discworld were originally like this, with wizards rising through the ranks at the Unseen University by filling the recently vacated pointy shoes of their higher-ups. This state of affairs ended when the wizards ended up appointing Mustrum Ridcully to the post of Arch-Chancellor; not only did he come down like a ton of bricks on anyone trying it in his faculty, but he was also nigh impossible to kill. The wizards mellowed down shortly after. The desert warriors known as D'regs do this with a twist; the tribe is actually ruled by ancient traditions with little or no actual decision making to be done, so being the leader boils down to being the guy who gets to say, "Charge!". There are elders who could technically count as the true power since they advise when it is wise to charge...except they truly believe that it is always wise to charge.
  • The Minotaur Empire in Dragonlance is all about this trope; anyone can become Emperor so long as they defeat the previous Emperor in a ceremonial (but very real and lethal) duel, and social and legal conflicts are also often solved in the arena. This becomes a plot point in the Minotaur Wars trilogy where a new Emperor comes to power after a coup, and even though he is a much better leader sizeable chunks of the population won't follow him because he dishonorably assassinated his predecessor rather than formally duelling him.
  • In The Dresden Files: Many organizations work this way, either directly or indirectly. The White Court of Vampires betray one another to rise up the ranks as a matter of course. The Senior White Council are determined by seniority, and since knowledge is power in the setting, basically every member of the Senior Council is personally incredibly dangerous, although they technically don't get the position through strength or force. In general you can assume the leaders of any organization are also it's most personally dangerous members, and it's even implied that having more people serving under you directly increases personal power as well.
  • Subverted in Dune. Early on, Paul earns credibility among the Fremen by reluctantly killing one who challenged him to combat. The Fremen, like the Bedouin culture they loosely parallel, have a culture that values "honor," defended through bloodshed. Also, they expect their leaders to succeed by killing their predecessors. Though the Fremen take him for a Messiah and see his leadership as inevitable, he refuses to take the place of the tribe leader Stilgar by killing him. He takes power instead after an impassioned speech deploring the idea of sacrificing a loyal and talented soldier to such a brutal custom. This compels Stilgar to step down, and the Fremen accept Paul's leadership.
  • In The Edge Chronicles, the roost-mother of the shrykes is very often the most ruthless and violent member of an already vicious race, and her presence is necessary in battle to keep younger and less disciplined flocks in line.
  • In The Fires of Affliction. Sir Roland Balfour's martial skill earns him the top spot on the mission to find the Mystery Cult's base. But he makes poor decisions, disregards advice from people he doesn't like, and is easily outwitted.
  • In Larry Niven's novel Footfall, the Fithp ultimately surrender unconditionally to the Humans and join their "herd" after Wes Dawson, aboard the Fithp mothership, overpowers its commander and takes control of it. He then performs a ceremonial gesture of placing his foot on top of the submitting commander's body, becoming the ship's new "Herdmaster".
  • In For Love of Evil, Hell itself is an interesting subversion. When Satan first takes control, he finds it plays this trope straight. After proving his ability, he re-organizes Hell. Interestingly, his greatest power is the destruction of demons which in a complete subversion is solely based on the demons' belief and not any real ability.
  • Jenna and Carum in the Great Alta Saga become king and queen of the Dales because they prove they're the best fighters in the army.
  • In Grent's Fall, Osbert Grent is only king because he overthrew the Stanley dynasty. It's also how he loses his crown.
  • In Guild Hunter, that's basically the way Angels' society works, with the Archangels, the most powerful of them all, reigning supreme.
  • In Harry Harrison's The Hammer and the Cross the Ragnarssons and their father are all famous champions with a history of victorious battles behind them, and this fame allows them to attract followers. In One King's Way, Shef duels the King of Sweden to the death for the right to the throne. Truth in Television to a great extent, the Norse really were that way.
  • The Heroes of Olympus:
    • One of the two possible ways to get promoted to praetor.
    • Still in full effect for General Tyson of the Cyclops Army too.
    • Also the method by which the Amazons can challenge for the queenship.
  • Honor Harrington: In The Honor Of The Queen, the religiously conservative Graysons initially can't handle Honor's mere presence, due to their prejudice against women. They simply can't believe that a woman can in any way be capable of a military command. This changes after the planetary newsnet gets their hands on a security-camera recording of Honor decimating a small army of armed assassins who were trying to kill the planet's leader — with her bare hands. Afterwards, nobody dares question her worthiness of command, suggesting that they're following the logic of this trope. Later on, she defeats a master swordsman in a public Duel to the Death, while weakened from an attempted assassination, then proceeds to win a Space Battle, all before seeing a doctor. This shuts everyone else up.
  • The urgals of the Inheritance Cycle. Their entire social structure is based on feats of combat, meaning that if you don't win duels and raid enemies' villages, you'll never advance in society. One other way for some of them to advance is a trial of manhood passage, where they go and kill a dangerous animal barehanded. We hear from one chieftain (who is of a larger 8-foot tall sub-species called a kull, take note), that he's the chief because during the passage he went and killed a "cave bear" while everyone else went after wolves. He also states that a cave bear was larger than an adult kull, and when we see one later we find he wasn't exaggerating.
  • In The Irregular at Magic High School, magicians tend towards this trope even when they're in democratic systems. During the election of a school's Absurdly Powerful Student Council, Miyuki silences unruly dissenters by freezing everyone in the hall solid. When she'd been escorted out and the campaign resumed, there were a disturbing amount of write-in votes cast for her.
  • In the Kate Daniels series, the Beast Lord is said to rule over the 300+ Shapeshifters of Atlanta specifically for this.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Kull / Bran Mak Morn story "Kings of the Night", Wulfhere insists that Kull fight him for the leadership. Kull, though not knowing his language, deduced it before being told.
  • The Lensman series by E. E. “Doc” Smith had multiple cultures which followed this method (though this is usually explained by the fact that all of the subject cultures consciously patterned themselves after the primary culture). The Eddorians, the Ploor, the Eich, possibly the Delgonians, and the entire Council of Boskone, fit this trope perfectly. Kim Kinnison even uses this to take over the entire bad guy's empire and become the Overlord of Thrale by assassinating the previous Overlord of Thrale, which was the accepted way of moving up in the world. It was stated that all of these cultures were fairly stable, in that underlings would not try for promotion until they were fairly certain that they could succeed, and in the meantime they had to produce for their superiors or they would be replaced, either by their superiors for not producing or by their own underlings for failure to protect themselves.
  • A Mage's Power: The Dragon's Lair hierarchy is built with this in mind. Proving that he can kick ass is how Eric promotes from Apprentice to Novice. At the top of each Squad is a captain more powerful than several regular members and at the top of the guild is The Dragoness, who could fight all five captains at once.
  • The Seguleh in the Malazan Book of the Fallen have their social hierarchy based entirely on martial skill. They were founded by an army of the First Empire after the Empire was destroyed. It is later revealed that they have a parallel civilian hierarchy that exercises authority on all internal matters that don't pertain to the army. While the top ranks of the army act as the rulers of the nation, there seem to be other paths of advancement available to those not skilled with the sword.
  • The Mortal Instruments:
    • On more than one occasion when Luke has needed to acquire some allies in a hurry his solution has been to find the nearest werewolf pack, kill the Alpha and take over as leader.
    • In City of Heavenly Fire, Maia takes down an usurper of the New York Clan in an absolutely vicious Curb-Stomp Battle which leads to her becoming temporary head and later permanent head of the New York Clan after Luke's retirement.
  • Averted in The Obsidian Trilogy where Kellen's fighting prowess earns him the respect of his commanders, but he is unable to get his greater strategic goals taken seriously until he is able to succeed in the command of a small squad.
  • In Jonathan Maberry's Patient Zero, the protagonist Joe Ledger is introduced to his competitors for leadership of Echo Team and told to think outside the box; six seconds later other five candidates (vets of the Navy SEALs, Marines, Army Rangers, and Delta Force) are flat on the floor.
  • In Steven Kellogg's book Pecos Bill, Bill whoops both a gigantic rattlesnake and a grizzy/puma/tarantula/gorilla monster. As no one had even survived before, the local gang falls immediately in line when Bill rides up on the monster holding the snake and asks which member is the leader:
    Gun Smith: I was, but now you is.
  • In the C. S. Lewis novel Perelandra, the hero has to prevent Satan from tempting alien Adam and Eve. He first tries to do this through debate, but the devil keeps winning the arguments. The hero decides to settle matters with good ol' fisticuffs. Because the proper response to losing a debate is to beat up your opponent to prove that you're right despite logic.
  • The Hyerne nation in Philosopher In Arms chooses its queen through one-on-one combat.
  • The leaders of the Holnists in The Postman. The Holnists are a gang of Crazy Survivalist social Darwinists, so naturally the men in charge are Super Soldiers.
  • The Power portrays this trope as the fundamental root of misogyny and human gender roles. Because, for most of human history, the question of who was in charge came down to brute physical strength, and the average man was physically larger than the average woman, men claimed authority and dominance over women, with the few matriarchies and egalitarian societies emerging from those cultures that were not organized around violence and warfare. So when women suddenly gain the power to shoot electricity from their hands and disable even the biggest, strongest men, gender roles turn upside down, especially in less egalitarian countries where violence was a fact of daily life. And when World War III plunges the entire world back into the Stone Age, matriarchy becomes the governing principle of most post-apocalyptic societies.
  • In Riesel Tales: Two Hunters, the titular planet Riesel is ruled by whoever has the most firepower.
  • Schooled in Magic:
    • Stripped down to its barest essentials, this is the foundation of magical society. The system of etiquette among magicians and Houses is couched in terms of "honor, obligation and respect," but what that actually means is that it's a way to keep walking One Man Armies from killing each other.
    • In particular, this is the essence of a Lone Power. Void has no position within magical society (though he could easily get one) but everyone respects his power and he's a vital ally in the war against the Blighted Lands because of his vast magical ability. His authority is entirely derived from his ability to kick ass.
  • Second Apocalypse: Examined in the second series. Anisurimbor Kellhus has conquered most of the known world by posing as a living embodiment of the God, displaying seemingly impossible mental, physical and sorcerous abilities. When he reveals to one of his Believer-Kings, Coithus Saubon, that his religious claims are all lies, Saubon is surprisingly unaffected. Saubon has always worshiped Kellhus's indisputable power more than his religious claims. Anyone who can kick that much ass is worthy of complete devotion.
  • In the Shadowleague books, Aliana convinces Galveron that this might be true, in which case he would be most fit to be leader.
  • In one Sister Fidelma novel, King Colgu of Cashel is injured by an assassin — who isn't even trying to kill him, since under ancient Irish law a chieftain was required by law to step down if unable to physically lead his people in battle, thus making way for a rival.
  • In Six of Crows, Kaz keeps his leadership role usually through brokering information, but he simply wipes out the competition in Crooked Kingdom to take over the Dregs. This seems to be the accepted way of things among the Barrel gangs.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The Dothraki explicitly operate this way: the most badass warrior calls the shots and leads the horde. The Dothraki's leadership only lasts as long as their Khal is strong and alive. If the Khal is seen as weak or are killed, the Dothraki pick the next strongest warrior as their Khal.
    • In Westeros, one of the causes (though not the only one) of the Blackfyre Rebellions was that a dying king awarded his Cool Sword to his warrior-like bastard, as opposed to his bookwormish natural son. In Tales of Dunk and Egg, a Blackfyre King Incognito is in a tourney where all his opponents have been bribed to let him win. When he goes up against a genuine opponent he gets knocked into the mud, and no-one follows him when he later tries to rally his forces for a Last Stand.
    • Robert Baratheon is a deconstruction of the trope. Robert is a skilled military commander and a fearsome warrior, but he didn't really know what to do with the Iron Throne of Westeros once he'd won it. Robert turns out to be a completely ineffective ruler in peacetime and knows that he doesn't have the right skills for the job.
      • Also partially averted in that Robert's grandmother was a daughter of Aegon V Targaryen, making him the closest thing to a living Targaryen outside of Aerys II's family. The Rebellion used that to legitimize Robert's claim to the Iron Throne, and the other leaders of the Rebellion (Eddard and Jon Arryn) held the belief that made him the obvious choice for king. Several other characters do not hold much stock in that interpretation... Including Robert, who bemoans that Ned should have seated himself on the throne instead.
    • Jon Snow is a subversion of the trope. While he is one of the characters most fitting a classic fantasy hero in this series complete with combat skills and a Cool Sword, Jon must depend more on his intellect rather than on his fighting prowess. When Jon first arrives at Castle Black, the Night's Watch smith Donal Noye shames him when he defeats the other new Watch recruits with his sword fighting skills during training, pointing out to Jon that he had a highborn upbringing in a castle and was trained under a master-at-arms his whole life while the other recruits are lowborn and never held a sword before. This makes Jon realize how tough the other boys had it and he passes on his combat knowledge to them, wherein they all become True Companions. When Jon wants to leave the Watch to join his brother Robb's army in grief over his father's execution, Lord Commander Mormont points out that his fighting prowess would not help his brother's campaign significantly due to already being on the scope of large armies. After the first book, although he engages in a few fights and a battle, all major developments with Jon — especially after gaining the authority of Lord Commander of the Night's Watch — primarily depend on Jon's intellectual abilities, such as decision-making, negotiation, research, and perception skills rather than his ability to swing a sword.
    • The Free Folk/Wildlings also believe in this trope... sort of. True to their nature as 'free folk,' they don't care much for titles, fealty or bloodlines, but they will follow someone who's strong and competent enough to be worthy of leadership. Being 'strong' isn't a purely physical thing, however, as the king-beyond-the-wall during the book earned the title by being charismatic, good at negotiating and having a unified vision for the Free Folk to follow. Mance is a skilled warrior who defeated or humbled several chieftains to build his coalition, but that's not the only reason most Free Folk follow him.
      Tormund: See, lad, that's why he's king and I'm not. I can outdrink, outfight, and outsing him, and my member's thrice the size o' his, but Mance has cunning.
  • Star Wars:
    • Gaining rank has a lot to do with asskicking. Both Luke Skywalker and Han Solo are given senior officer status in the Rebel Alliance just based on the fact that they are awesome. Somewhat justified in that a rebel insurgency doesn't have the luxury of OCS and a career advancement system, but still odd that any random smuggler can become an instant General. Han did have some officer training from the Imperial Navy before he started smuggling for a living though.
    • Star Wars Legends makes it pretty clear that the Sith have generally operated on this principle whenever they have had a structure involving enough of them to do so — the Rule of Two just compresses it, so that one proves one's strength and becomes the Master by killing one's own Master. The fact that this often ended badly for the Sith as a whole was the reason for adopting the Rule of Two and an accompanying shift to manipulation from the shadows rather than open conquest.
    • On a less malevolent scale, the Mandalorians also have a tradition of following their leaders based upon this trope. Whenever Mandalore dies (given the nature of their culture, this usually happens in battle), the strongest remaining warrior becomes the new Mandalore. This has been happening for over twenty thousand years. More specifically, the strongest warriors fight over Mandalore's helmet. If there's no helmet, there's no fighting, and no new Mandalore. Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords pointed out how ridiculous this is — Revan managed to deal the death blow to the Mandalorian people basically by just killing Mandalore and taking the helmet with him when he left. Later, they fixed that. Now either the current Mandalore chooses a successor (the person he or she feels is best fit to lead), or it's the guy who can get the most people the follow him. The second one happens if the Mandalore fails to name a successor before he dies.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Anyone who has a Shardblade or Shardplate becomes a landed noble, regardless of birth. In fact it's suggested that having Shardblades or Plate is how the noble houses came about in the first place.
    • The flashbacks in Oathbringer show that this is how Dalinar and his brother Gavilar united the warring highprinces of their country: "With armies and knives in the dark." The Alethi have a strong Might Makes Right mentality in general, so showing up and conquering everyones lands was considered basically the best way to prove your worth as king. There was certainly more than a little diplomacy, particularly once they and their allies had already taken large parts of the kingdom, but force of arms was the primary justification.
      • Deconstructed in the second book (Words of Radiance) when Dalinar notes that one of the reasons his more peaceful methods are now failing is because of the way they united it in the first place. As soon as the other see weakness in the throne, they are justified in trying to take it by the same right.
      Dalinar: I receive, in Alethkar, only what I have demanded. In taking the throne by force, we implied — no we screamed — that strength is the right of rule. If Sadeas thinks he is stronger than I am, then it is his duty to try to take the throne from me. These are the fruits of my youth, Wit. It is why we need more than tyranny, even the benevolent kind, to transform this kingdom. That is what Nohadon was teaching. And that is what I've been missing all along.
  • Super Powereds: Year 1 has Coach George explain his belief that young hot-shot Supers aren't likely to respect anyone who hasn't bested them in combat, so he challenges all of them to try to take him. The battle is stated to be embarrassingly short, ending with George standing amid unconscious bodies, many of whom have Super Strength. His less direct colleague Coach Persephone demonstrates her authority by knocking out Nick without even touching him, explaining that she can emit pheromones that can do pretty much anything she wants to another person. In Year 2, George's successor starts the first class by explaining that he believes this philosophy as well and giving everyone 10 seconds to prepare before he will attack. His opening strike results in less than a dozen students remaining on their feet. He then proceeds to utterly curb-stomp each of those, while explaining the problems with their technique. This is despite the fact that he's retired at the start of the novel and is much older than George.
  • Survivor Dogs uses and deconstructs the trope. In a group with a lot of unrelated dogs, this is how they choose the alpha. The pack leader is an idiotic, occasionally cowardly racist asshole who puts his needs above the entire pack, but because he's the best fighter they can't depose him. Luckily, he leaves anyway in the fifth book, and there's some justice to be found in that he becomes the Omega of the pack he joins.
  • Sword of Truth: The Confessors' hierarchy is based on whose gift is the most powerful and requires the least recovery time after each use.
  • Alanna of the Tortall Universe, who is the King's Champion and has the authority of the crown when the king or queen are not present. Not to mention she has not lost a battle since her training days. King Jonathan also counts, since he is a trained knight (and was in fact Alanna's knight-master while she was a squire).
  • Vorkosigan Saga is a deconstruction. The endless strife and militarism of the ruling classes are ruining the planet Barrayar until they learn to get by with a minimum of asskicking. In a way it is a Coming-of-Age Story for an entire society.
  • In Gav Thorpe's Warhammer 40,000 story "Renegades", when Gessert demands that the members of his company paint over their insignia, so they realize they are renegades and commit themselves, one says that he is no longer authorized by the Imperium as their captain. Gessert says that if he wants to fight him, go ahead.
  • In Warrior Cats, BloodClan works this way. Scourge can kill a cat in one blow; he's leader. Bone is huge and also a powerful fighter; he's second in command. This is not, however, how the Clans proper operate. They prefer a combination of Four-Star Badass and Action Politician and a leader would probably face outright revolt if they tried to rule this way.
  • A belief in this principle is the undoing of the rabbits of Efrafa in Watership Down. When the biggest, toughest, most badass rabbit you've ever seen has stood alone against your elite warriors, and then rejects an offer of surrender because his chief rabbit has ordered him to stand... well, you don't want to stick around to meet the big guy's boss. Neatly subverted in that said Chief Rabbit is actually smaller, has a permanent leg injury, and is just generally less prone to asskicking than Bigwig. Not that most of the Efrafan Owslafa stuck around to find this out — especially considering there is a bigger rabbit but who is not in command.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • Among the Children of the Light, a victory in a duel conducted within the proper constraints results in the loser's rank and property being forfeited to the winner. Galad became Lord Captain Commander by using this law.
    • Another example would be the Aes Sedai, whose internal ranking depends partly on how strongly they can wield magic.
    • The Forsaken also structure their hierarchy this way; it's justified because of the fact that the Dark One likes pitting his servants against each other. The Forsaken hierarchy is pretty fluid as a result, since whoever is most successful at the moment has ascendance over the others, but the Dark One put his thumb on the scale at one point: Ishamael was always the overall leader both in his original body and as Moridin owing to being the setting's version of The Anti-Christ, and this trope was less about maintaining his position than it was enforcing his authority. Lanfear and Demandred were usually close behind, with Graendal, Sammael, and Semirhage generally filling out the top ranks.
  • Invoked in Wings of Fire. The only way for a princess to become queen is to challenge and kill the current ruler in combat. They only get one try, since it's a fight to the death. Daughters, sisters, and nieces of the queen can do this. However, the RainWing tribe doesn't do this; instead, they compete for the throne in non-violent sport.
  • The warrior tribes that inhabit the northern villages in Duncan M. Hamilton's The Wolf of the North trilogy. The First Warrior of each village is leader of the Village Council, and the warriors of each village are placed at the top of the heirarchy because the northern lands are still wild and savage, forcing those without fighting prowess to rely on the warriors for protection.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100:
    • This is how leadership works amongst the grounder tribes. When the previous "Heda" dies a Conclave (essentially a battle royal) takes place between various Nightbloods to decide who will rule over the clans. The winner of the conclave then becomes Heda and is renowned as the World's Best Warrior.
    • Near the end of season 4 with the approach of Praimfaya threatening to destroy all life on the planet the various clans decide to hold one final Conclave in order to determine what to do with a sustainable bunker beneath the capital of Polis. Octavia ends up winning the Conclave and, after deciding to share the bunker with every major tribe, is pronounced the leader of Wonkru.
  • The Nietzscheans of Andromeda, on account of being a genetically engineered race of Social Darwinist Nietzsche Wannabes, base their society on this principle. The males compete with one another to gain the females' attention and the strongest male in the Pride is the Alpha. In one episode, Tyr tries to teach a would-be king the importance of thinking like a warrior and a general. When the young prince questions the necessity of learning to fight, Tyr references Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, and Heados of Thonia as examples.
  • Babylon 5:
    • The Narn evidently follow this trope to some degree; if a Narn is really pissed off at a higher-up, said Narn can challenge him to single combat for the position. G'Kar was challenged by a young hothead leading attacks on Centauri on the station; despite the underhanded tactics (e.g. having one of his lieutenants try to get G'Kar with a poisoned dart), G'Kar wins and manages to get something of a handle on B5's Narn population.
    • Drazi "elections" work this way. Every so often, the population is randomly split evenly into the purple and green factions. These factions, whose only difference is which colour they're wearing, then fight. The side with the most victories forms the ruling body until the next election.
  • In the episode "Wipe-Out" of the American TV series Raven, the titular character Jonathan Raven (who is secretly a ninja) decides to infiltrate a gang of surfers. The final test to join the gang is to fight every member, one by one. He defeats every single one except the boss. After losing this fight, he innocently remarks that he must've failed the test, but the boss replies that no, he's now the second in command. Later on, however, Raven (who is actually a ninja) admits to his pal that he lost the fight to the boss on purpose, because if he had defeated the boss he would have undermined his authority, and been unable to infiltrate the gang. The gang are playing the trope straight, and Raven uses smartness to take advantage of them.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In the seventh season, when the group temporarily turns away from Buffy as their leader, they place Faith, who as the other Slayer is the team's second strongest member, in that role instead. This is in spite of the fact that Faith has no leadership experience whatsoever, and virtually every other character has a better claim to the leadership. Willow and Giles are smarter, Kennedy had been gearing up for this role all season, and Xander is the only member of the group with actual management experience. Buffy later regains leadership upon slaying a Turok-Han in front of them.
  • In Dinosaur Planet, Pod is a Pyroraptor who washes up on an island inhabited by dwarf versions of dinosaurs (their versions of The Dreaded Tarascosaurus are only roughly the same size as him instead of giants). Pod realizes he's the most powerful predator on the island and eventually establishes himself as the apex predator, with the other predators forced to give up shares of their meat to him.
  • Doctor Who: The villain of "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" turns out to be going about a Hunting the Most Dangerous Game ritual which (he boasts) will make him the leader, where the Doctor figures out that even by his own culture's standards, he's cheating.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Each Dothraki khalassar is led by the most badass warrior present. Leadership can pass from father to son (Drogo's father Bharbo was khal before him), but it is not an inherited title and each khal must fight constantly to defeat his rivals and appease his supporters with victory.
    • Robert Baratheon won the Iron Throne this way, but proves to be a very ineffectual ruler who hates the job.
    • This becomes a Discussed Trope when King Robert fears the Dothraki might invade under the command of Prince Viserys. Although they lack the knowledge and equipment for siege warfare, Robert points out that if they hide in their castles while the Dothraki lay waste to the country, the smallfolk will view them as cowardly and hail Viserys as king instead.
    • Wildlings value charisma, bravery, and martial skill far above lineage and rank. Becoming a chieftain and especially a King-Beyond-the-Wall like Mance Rayder means subduing every other contender in some way. For instance, nobody has a problem with Tormund bludgeoning the Lord of Bones to death when challenged.
    • Even in the Seven Kingdoms where people do respect lineage and rank, Jaime Lannister fears what will happen to his authority if people realize he can barely fight after losing his sword hand.
    • Since the Unsullied are said to know nothing but combat, it's implied they would only elect their best fighter as leader and Grey Worm certainly proves his prowess.
    • Jon Snow is elected Lord Commander of the Night's Watch for his leadership in the battle for Castle Black and his fighting prowess, rather than his seniority. Likewise, it's partly his battle prowess that lead the Northerners to proclaim him king, despite his being an illegitimate son, alongside his capabilities to lead them through the true war to come based on his direct knowledge, experience and recognition of the true threat.
    • Daenerys takes control of the entire Dothraki nation by gathering all the different khals inside a tent and then burning them to a crisp, knowing herself to be immune to the flames. She's immediately hailed as the Great Khaleesi. Then she rides Drogon into battle. Now remember that this is a culture that equates leadership to being able to ride on horseback. Someone who rides a giant flying reptile is basically a living god to them.
    • Daario Naharis. This is the only way you rise to the top of the Second Sons.
    • That's Euron's thesis. His primary claim is that while Balon was sitting on his ass, Euron was out there, reaving. Which he further solidifies by stating how he killed Balon: If he's the strongest man, why shouldn't he rule?
  • In Kamen Rider Kuuga, the Grongi's Gegeru game revolves around killing humans, each rank taking their turn and getting progressively stronger with rank. The winner of each tribe gets promoted to the next level, the winner of the Gegeru earns the privilege to fight the Grongi King for control of the tribe. To add to it, the king himself kills off 152 Grongi he decides are too weak to engage in the Gegeru.
  • In The Sopranos episode "Mr. & Mrs. Sacrimoni Request", while recovering from a severe gunshot wound, Tony notices that his old lieutenants don't follow his orders as readily as they used to, and he suspects that they now see him as weak. Tony responds by goading his hotheaded, musclebound bodyguard into fighting him. He kicks the everloving shit out of the much younger man in front of his entire crew, to their visible shock, then calmly walks into the bathroom and coughs up blood into the sink. No one questions his orders after that.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • The Goa'uld play it deadly straight, since the only way to become Supreme System Lord is to amass enough power to tell all the others to sit down and shut up. Since O'Neil(l) dealt Ra a nuclear sucker punch back in Stargate the other System Lords have been squabbling over who gets to fill his gold-plated shoes; whenever one seems to be getting close it's generally regarded as a bad thing. And when one System Lord kills another (either directly, or more commonly by blowing up his spaceship), the defeated System Lord's armies and territories are merged into those of the victor.
    • When SG-1 get imprisoned on a prison world for unintentionally breaking a law, O'Neill quickly realizes the prisoners operate on this principle and gives his teammates advice on how to avoid getting beaten, killed, or worse (apparently he'd spent time in some extremely unpleasant prisons on Earth in his past). Curiously, all of the prisoners, including the biggest, baddest men among them, treat one elderly lady there with utmost respect and fear, and O'Neill is wary of her, regardless of how kindly she seems to be. Turns out that little old lady was imprisoned for the crime of genocide (and is known to the galaxy at large as "the Destroyer of Worlds"), having unleashed plagues of her own creation and wiped out entire nations. The other prisoners are aware of her past and are too terrified of her releasing a plague on them to dare harm her.
  • Star Trek:
    • In an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, "Mirror Mirror", Kirk and a few of his bridge crew swap places with their counterparts in an alternate dimension where promotions are earned by killing your commanding officer. It's a wonder they managed to keep their Enterprise crewed by anything but a huge pile of corpses. The Klingons would've been right at home in that universe, as they actually want their worthy successors to prove their mettle by killing them to take their place.
    • In Star Trek: Voyager, this trope is Starfleet policy when resolving command disputes, as per Regulation 191, Article 14 — in a combat situation where there are two or more ships and captains of equal rank, command authority goes to the captain with the more powerful ship. This also explains why, in Star Trek: First Contact, Captain Picard took command of a Starfleet armada after the admiral's flagship was destroyed by the Borg — he was commanding the Enterprise-E, Starfleet's newest battlecruiser.
    • No mention of Klingons in general? It's a part of their promotion system. It's actually stated in DS9 that you can't just go for the head. Only your immediate superior can be challenged for a position. In the case of the Chancellor, it's decided by who has the most kick-ass war record and Picard flat out refuses to consider a child's claim as he doesn't have any record. The initiation ceremony even contains a passage about how the presumptive new Chancellor has defeated all his enemies and none but him survive.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Abraham Lincoln was able to use publicity from a wrestling match with Jack Armstrong to establish his political career.
  • Perhaps the practice became outdated after 1980 or so, but if you want to hold any National Wrestling Alliance Championship belt at the world level, you don't just have to be good at your job in the ring, you must also prove able to "win" when your opponent is not cooperating. Below world level, things are more relaxed. Since the World Champions have to be approved by the majority of the member promotions and are supposed to cross boarders, it was deemed easier to just put the belt on a good fighter than to keep up with who wouldn't "go into business for themselves" and risk an international dispute. That said, there have been quite a few "illegitimate" NWA champions, even at the world level. The practice is perhaps outdated because in the broken masquerade days of pro wrestling, a rogue promoter is more likely to be behind an unapproved title change than a wrestler. Still, hiring "hookers" to injure wrestlers during matches and wrestlers deciding to fight for real are things that have never really went away, which means the practice may never be done away with either.
  • While the practice is not universal regarding NWA titles below the world level, it does still apply sometimes. Well after the demise of the territories, NWA UK Hammerlock didn't just require holders of the British Commonwealth Title belt to be credible, they had to look credible too.
  • Jesse the Body Ventura, former Navy SEAL, former pro wrestler, first and only member of the Reform Party and governor of Minnesota. Our governor could beat yours.
  • The Great Sasuke ran for, and won, an assembly seat in Japan's Iwata Prefecture, and caused quite a stir by attending legislature sessions while wearing his mask.
  • This trope is one of the factors in New Japan Pro-Wrestling's dork age during the 2000s. Wrestlers would be pushed solely for their success in mixed martial arts bouts, regardless of how well they wrestled or if it even made any sense. Things largely turned around in the 2010s.
  • Yoshiko wasn't the most over wrestler in Wonder Ring Stardom but she was 160 cm 75 kg with no immediately visible fat, thus a convincing champion on paper. She could fight too though and showed the contemporary audience what happens when a better fighter refuses to put over a more popular wrestler, the 163 cm 57 kg, blind in one eye, Act Yasukawa (Despite being beaten into a bloody mess, Yasukawa refused to let the match be stopped until it reached the previously decided finish, proving to be as worthy a pro wrestler as any).
  • Within Kayfabe this trope is in full effect. Not only do wrestlers win Championships by beating other wrestlers, anything, up to and including positions of authority and even serious legal disputes can be won or lost by winning or losing a wrestling match.

  • The titular Godmodder of Destroy the Godmodder is fabled throughout Minecraft and beyond as the only Omega+ godmodder in existence; the highest rank of godmodder. Of course, to do this, he had to get through all of the other tiers first, which requires tons of asskicking. That's why he's got the capital G.
    • As a whole, the Godmodding Scale/Ladder Enforces this. In order to rank up, you need to beat a godmodder of the imminently-higher rank, 99 times out of 100. There are ways to cheat this, but by far it's the easiest, which is saying something as almost all godmodders are The Juggernaut by default.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000:
    • Ork society. "Da bigga an ork is, da more dat 'es da boss." It actually goes both ways — orks know who is their boss because the boss is bigger, but orks actually grow as a response to rising in the social hierarchy-the bosses really are bigger because you start growing when you become the boss. Orks find human social hierarchy very confusing because humans "are all 'bout da same size" and wonder how they ever decide who the boss is (some resort to picking either those who lack the helmet/hat or have the fanciest among other 'ummies which usually works). Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka, the greatest of all Ork warlords, has a head the size of a human torso, and arms thicker than a literal tree trunk. He's actually closer to the size of a large Killa Kan or small Dreadnaught than a typical ork. Nothing more needs to be said about his strength, or his love of all things dakka. And he's just the "heir" to The Beast, the greatest Warboss(es) that ever existed. In terms of asskicking each one was a hab block-sized giant with tusks like trees, that personally destroyed entire armies and were a match for Primarchs in a one-on-one fight. In authority, they commanded essentially every ork. Not even Horus came as close to destroying the Imperium as the Beast's Waaagh did.
      • You’ve also got their fantasy counterparts, the Greenskins, who act in an identical fashion- but they never really get as big as Ghazghkull or other Ork warlords. They’re still just as barbaric, though.
    • Other such societies in the two settings include, but is not limited to, Norsca, Chaos warbands (especially Beastmen), Skaven, Ogres, Dark Elves and Dark Eldar.
    • Chaos Lords gain their position through sheer power and favor from the Gods. The latter is gained by the Chaos Lord's quality in the former. Kharn the Betrayer, for example, is the greatest of all Khorne's Champions due to his phenomenal fighting ability. When a Chaos Lord is slain, the best of the warband usually take each other on until only the strongest remain, and then the strongest fight each other so that only the greatest Champion remains.
    • Ogres are the embodiment of this trope. The only requirement to becoming tyrant of a particular tribe is to beat the (sometimes literal) living crap out of the old one.
    • Abaddon the Despoiler is the Warmaster of Chaos mainly because he can literally tear apart any and all challengers to the position. However, he's a bit of a subversion as well, since he's not actually that great a commander: on the tabletop he has incredible close-combat stats but barely buffs his forces. Great warriors don't always make great generals. This has changed as of 8th edition — he's still a beast of a fighter but he actually buffs his troops too.
    • In Warhammer Fantasy, every seven years, the incumbent Supreme Patriarch of the Imperial Colleges of Magic can be challenged to a Wizard Duel for the position by any other Lord Magister.
  • Battletech: The Clans work this way, being a Proud Warrior Race. They have a Fantastic Caste System where the warrior caste is very much in charge, and martial skill determines rank and command privileges. Trial by Combat is the legitimate way to air one's grievances, or to overturn political decisions that didn't go your way. Once you obtain a Bloodname and enter the Clan Council, the rules change a bit: No-one is allowed to challenge you for your Bloodname while you still live, and Khans (who are elected by the Clan Council) have to be able to play politics as well. Being nominated by a member of the Council also makes it much easier to be able to fight for a Bloodname in the first place. Generally speaking the less successful Clans (Smoke Jaguar and Ice Hellion) tend to play this trope more straight while more powerful and thriving ones (Wolf, Jade Falcon, Ghost Bear, Diamond Shark, and Star Adder) elect leaders based off both combat ability and political prowess.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Most depictions of devils work on a very orderly version of this. Demons are similar, but drop the "orderly" part — as a species dedicated to selfishness and chaos, the only authority demons consistently respond to is "they can kill me if I don't follow them."
    • Also the drow that follow the spider goddess Lolth, which includes a great majority of the entire race. There are lots of rules in their society that demand severe punishments for betrayal and murder, but only the victims or their immediate families can bring a case before the high priestesses. Thus the only way to power is to kill everyone in your way and intimidate everyone who could make your deeds publicly known. Everything is legitimate, as long as you can get away with it.
    • The Ordning as it applies to Frost Giants is based on pure physical might, with rank determined by challenging other giants to things like wrestling bouts (you get their rank if you win, and they have to take yours).
    • Applies to the system as a whole. Since all abilities, from ability to fight to ability to weave baskets, are based on level, anyone that is exceptionally good at something, even a purely non violent profession or trade, is liable to be able to take at least a small army on by themselves... and win. As there is no shortage of ambition and predators — literal and figurative — those who keep a position of authority are those with enough personal power to kick the ass of anyone who wants to take their place. Often ends up being recursive with Authority equals Asskicking, both in that getting to the position in the first place is liable to improve your combat abilities (even if you do not fight your way there) and that it is often necessary to be proactive in order to maintain your position.
    • Forgotten Realms frequently shows how such things happen. Let's take Wyvern's Spur and a story of one ex-sellsword, now the King's governor:
      Giogioni Wyvernspur: Is that a prerequisite for your job?
      Samtavan Sudacar: Got to make a name for yourself at court. Slew a frost giant that was terrorizing merchants in Gnoll Pass. That's how I got into politics — a service like that has to be recognized officially.
  • In Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution the Zodiac Order is led by the strongest esper on the planet and power within the organization is based on reputation.
  • Exalted has this going on with the Yozi Cecelyne, Hell's lawmaker. Her rules stem from the belief that the strong are to rule over the weak. Her other laws are often arbitrary and sometimes outright contradictory, but this is the one truth she holds to absolutely. Indeed, it's one of her unbreakable themes as a Primordial being, so she can't even conceive of another way it could be.
  • The Vikings of Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok live in a time when every little problem or power struggle escalates very quickly. As a result, people in power have to be able to kick a lot of ass if they want to stay (case in point: King Erik BloodAxe murdered almost every single one of his brothers to keep his place).
  • In Apocalypse World it's very difficult to become a leader without being a very good fighter. The Chopper and Hardholder classes even have moves letting them use the same stat for exercising authority and kicking ass.
  • In Arkham Horror, you can be appointed an Arkham deputy if you murder enough monsters and seal enough gates.
  • Numenera: The people of the underwater city of Ahmas firmly believe this: in their society, might and combat prowess are the only ways to achieve status and power. Their massive gladiatorial games are the closest thing they have to a formalized way to climb the social ladder, and their king is thus the best and deadliest fighter of their lot.

    Video Games 
  • One way of winning Armello is to kill the king and take his crown. The king is slowly dying of a rotting disease, but even when the disease has drained him down to literally a single health point from Critical Existence Failure, attacking him is a dangerous gambit. According to its card art, the sword he wields alone is larger than his guardsmen.
  • Codified into rule in the Book Of Mages games. When the old Great Mage dies, an "election" is held, and whatever mage can defeat all challengers is elected Great Mage. In The Dark Times, this system breaks down; the Black Robes hold an election among themselves and refuse to allow non-Black Robes to participate, while the White Robes expressly reject the system, and their senior members elect a White Mage based on his reputation. A faction of neutral mages, who hold to the letter of the law, attempt to uphold the rules against whoever wins the war and play the trope straight.
  • During the 65 Million B.C. section in Chrono Trigger, Ayla (chief of the Ioka tribe) explains that whoever's strongest is the chief. She makes sure Kino, the second-strongest person in the tribe, is out of danger whenever she's about to do something heroic, just to make sure the line of succession is undamaged. (Well, that and she loves him.)
  • Implied in Crash Team Racing with the Purple Gem Cup where you race the boss characters as their normal selves rather than their infinite-item-usage one-on-one boss races. Since it's the last set of races you'll do before the True Final Boss, the implication is you've kicked enough ass on the racing circuit that you're one of the bosses now rather than one of the regular racers.
  • In Crusader Kings gavelkindnote  succession often ends up working like this in the ensuing Succession Crisis. It helps that many of the cultures that favor that method are in the real life section.
  • Disgaea:
    • This is pretty much how the Netherworld works, power is the only things that demons respect. Whoever defeats the current Overlord/Dean/President becomes the new one or they can appoint someone of their choice.
    • There's the Dark Assembly, where bills that are voted down can pass anyway by having your units beat the snot out of the Senators who voted no; a sufficiently-leveled postgame army can effectively run the Assembly and pass whatever bills they want without issue from any Senators who still try to vote Nay.
  • Dragon Age:
    • In Origins, if Sten is in your party when you enter a specific village, he becomes annoyed with your behavior and challenges you to a fight. Beating him increases his respect for your leadership. This only happens if his approval is below a certain level. If he already has a high approval of you, he simply expresses his concerns, but does not fight you.
    • And in Awakening, The Warden is so respected for stopping the Blight and killing the Archdemon that they are promoted to Warden-Commander of all of Ferelden and get lands and their very own keep.
    • This is how the Darkspawn Hierarchy works. The strongest darkspawn (the Alphas and Omegas) are the ones who lead the horde. In fact, the Darkspawns determinate who's the strongest by fighting at birth: the Alphas are the ones who managed to kill the entire brood and the Omegas are the ones strong enough to be capable to kill Alphas.
    • That's also how the Tevinter Imperium raised to prominence and how it fell: the most powerful mages became its ruling class, slaughtered everyone in Thedas who was strong/proud enough to stand up against them and enslaved the rest, remaining the sole masters of the continent for centuries. While the Blight weakened it, the coup de grâce came from Andraste, which, depending on the version, was either God's wife or a mage so freakingly powerful that it made the Tevinter Magisters look weak by comparison. Whatever the cause, an army of fanatical zealots and rebel slaves formed around her, and the Chantry founded in her name became the new dominant force in Thedas.
  • In Dragon Age II we have Hawke, a former-refugee from Ferelden who became the Champion of Kirkwall after years of ass-kicking culminating in stopping a major threat to the city. In most versions, this involves fighting the Arishok in single combat. This is even more apt when the Mage Hawke has even Knight-Commander Meredith of the Templar Order, who hunts illegal mages having to tip-toe around Hawke with kid-gloves. Even a non-Mage Hawke is implied to have enough authority that the Templars purposefully choose to ignore Anders and Merrill, two of Hawke's well-known Mage friends because of this. And if Meredith hadn't been able to seize power in the wake of the Viscount's assassination, Hawke would likely have been declared Viscount of Kirkwall, not merely Champion.
    • Fenris claims that Tevinter is still operating this way. He claims that this means all of the magisters practice Blood Magic even though they officially condemn it like everyone else since Blood Magic is too powerful an advantage to ignore. The magisters have no qualms about enslaving other mages who can't resist Blood Magic. Dorian says pretty much the same thing in Dragon Age: Inquisition.
  • The Elder Scrolls series provides a number of examples.
    • Throughout the series, this is the case for the Orcs (or Orsimer). They are a Proud Warrior Race with numerous Blood Knight and Death Seeker qualities, with Malacath, the Daedric Prince of the Spurned and Ostracized as their chief deity. Malacath encourages this behavior in the Orcs, ensuring that the best warriors within a tribe are acting as chieftains. As shown by his quest in Skyrim, Malacath isn't above taking a more hands on approach when a weak Orc chieftain goes unchallenged by his tribe.
    • In Morrowind, there are a few guilds and factions which operate on this, but in particular is Great House Telvanni. It's a faction of mostly Evil Sorcerers who strongly believe in Might Makes Right and allow Klingon Promotion as a perfectly legal means of increasing your status within the house. As part of the main quest, in order to be named Telvanni Hortator, you're allowed to simply kill every councilor except for the one needed to actually name your Hortator, and wisely, that councilor will give you his vote with no strings attached. (If you're a member of the House, you can even kill him and declare yourself Hortator as the highest ranking Telvanni left alive.)
    • In Skyrim, this is how dragon hierarchy works. If there's a question of pecking order, a fight ensues. A dragon either wins, submits, or dies. Alduin the World Eater, supposedly the "first born" and mightiest of all dragons, runs away like a Dirty Coward after the Dragonborn beats him the first time, claiming he's going to gorge himself on souls of the recently dead in Sovngarde. This flight is what causes a number of dragons to question Alduin's lordship, and one of them to actually defect to your side. After you slay Alduin in Sovngarde, you get treated to a scene of all the dragons bowing to your supremacy.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VI: Cyan Garamonde is a variation in that his outstanding fighting skills have made him highly respected by his fellow soldiers, although he doesn't seem to wield any actual political power.
    • In Final Fantasy VIII, Squall is made Commander of SeeD specifically due to his front-line combat experience and ability (helped along by a dose of You Can't Fight Fate). This marks Balamb Garden's change from vaguely military-themed Elaborate University High under Headmaster Cid into an active fighting force.
    • This is the reason for Mons in Final Fantasy XIII-2, summed up nicely.
      "There is one law in Valhalla. The weak shall serve the strong."
    • In Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood, this is how the Xaela tribes of the Azim Steppe determine who’s in charge of their society. Every few years they hold a contest called the Naadam, in which the khans and best warriors from each tribe compete in a no-holds-barred free-for-all to be the first to claim a sacred spot of land called the ovoo. Whichever tribe claims it becomes the dominant tribe, and their khan is recognized as the khagan until the next Naadam. Lord Hien, the exiled prince of Doma, plans to win the Naadam so that he can unite the tribes under his banner and use them to free his country from Imperial occupation. With the player’s help, he succeeds, though you’re the one recognized as the khagan.
  • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance mentions that the shapeshifting Laguz pick their kings based solely on physical strength. Justified as the Laguz kingdoms were founded by rebel slaves: quite logically, they chose as leaders the ones who could beat up the people who held the whips, and the tradition stuck. The sequel, Radiant Dawn, delves into this and illustrates why it's a really bad idea to make strength the sole basis of authority; Skrimir's insistence on solving everything by single combat causes serious problems for himself, his subjects, and his allies, and his character arc is about learning to take the best course of action even when it's less glorious. At the end of Part 3, he laments that while he's very good at fighting with claws, diplomacy is a weapon he has yet to learn. Indeed, the laguz monarchs are overall much more rational and temperate than much of the population, since they think about the consequences of their actions.
  • In The Godfather game, you progress up the ranks of the Corleone family by completing missions for them and gain Respect levels mostly by killing a lot. A real lot.
  • In Granblue Fantasy, this is how Luminiera decides who should become its next host. Albion stages a one-on-one elimination-type tournament with its soldiers as the contestants, with the winner claiming power from Luminiera and wins the right to be its current host.
  • Halo:
    • The Elite hierarchy is simple enough: the more enemies you kill, the higher your rank.
    • The Brutes take this even further; just challenge the current Chieftain of a tribe to single combat, kill him, and you get to be the new one.
    • Although he's only a non-com in rank, nobody, not even the brass, really ever says "no" to the Master Chief. Thankfully for them, he's also the type to follow orders.
      Lasky: At ease, Chief. Feels kinda odd for you to call me "sir."note 
    • Even the gameplay mechanics have an amusing example, as every entry after Halo: Combat Evolved lets the player switch whatever weapon they have with whatever weapon almost any allied NPC has, as well as allows you to snatch vehicles from your allies (once you can get them to stop driving straight into plasma mortars, anyways).
  • Jak 3: Wastelander has a Proud Warrior City run by Damas, who is the one who pulled all the misfits together and got them to build the damn city in the first place. The whole "leader = Jerkass or Big Bad" thing is averted though because King Damas is, deep down, a good guy.
  • In Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, two of the Factions work like this. The House of Valor arena celebrates martial strength and conflict and is always passed down to whoever can defeat the current Champion of the House. The Scholia Arcana also works on this principle since the Archsage is always chosen based on his/her mastery of battle magic. This is because the Scholia Arcana's true purpose — a secret that is passed down from Archsage to Archsage — is to watch over the Dark Empyrean's prison. The Archsage must fight the Dark Empyrean if she ever breaks free.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, when Jusis (noble) and Machias (commoner) pitch a fit over being paired together for a field study group for the second month in a row, their instructor Sara notes that she's not a traditional military type, so she's not going to make an order. Instead, if they don't like it, they can fight her. Oh, and Rean (main playable character) can join in as well. What follows is pretty predictable for anyone who's played a few games like this.
  • In Liberal Crime Squad, authority is represented by how many people you can have to work under you. That value depends on Juice. And one of the ways you can gain juice is by fighting conservatives.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The most badass krogan around is the leader. Wrex is well on his way to becoming the lord of the krogan, and he killed a thresher maw on foot. Shepard briefly wonders why in such a warriorlike race someone would choose to become an ambassador. The answer? He (the ambassador) is the strongest warrior in the clan and therefore gives the best impression of his clan's strength.
    • After going through the Krogan Rite-Of-Passage together and being the first to kill a Thresher Maw on foot since Wrex, it says a lot when Grunt declares that he considers Shepard to be their Battlemaster.
    • Spectres. "Individuals forged in the fire of service and battle, those whose actions elevate them above the rank and file." Basically, if you're Badass enough, you get to be Judge, Jury, and Executioner.
    • All the crazy stunts that Shepard's original crew members pulled off under him/her finally begin to pay off authority-wise in Mass Effect 3 (except for Wrex, who gets his authority in the second game): Ashley/Kaidan is promoted to Lieutenant-Commander/Major, respectively, and appointed the second human Spectre (after Shepard), Garrus gets pretty high up within the Turian Hierarchy (high enough that he's saluted by generals), Tali is an Admiral (and that's as high as you can go on the Flotilla), and Liara is the new Shadow Broker (though that was more of a case of You Kill It, You Bought It). Partially justified with Garrus. His rank was normally basically decorative. However, he's the one who knows most about Reapers, so he becomes very high-rank when they invade.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda has Nakmor Morda, a krogan so bad-tempered even other krogan think she's a hardass, and who got in charge of Clan Nakmor via the time-honoured tradition of beating the crap out of the last person in charge. The end of the New Tuchanka quest has her challenged by a would-be rival who manages to forget that part, and he gets his ass kicked.
  • Metroid: There's a damn good reason Ridley is the leader of the Space Pirates.
  • In the Neverwinter Nights 2 Mask Of The Betrayer expansion pack, the player can become the Jarl, or leader, of a tribe of Frost Giants by competing in a trial of strength, namely that whoever's the last man standing and holding the crown, they become the head. The player can even take this to extreme lengths by throwing all the Frost Giants out of the tribe and exiling them.
  • Nippon Ichiverse: Overlords. The title of Overlord of a Netherworld will automatically pass from the defeated to the victor if its possessor is defeated; thus, only the strongest demons (or those who can fool their fellows into thinking they're far stronger than they really are) remain Overlords. Anyone can become a demon Overlord if he or she kicks enough ass. This (canonically!) happens to Prier from La Pucelle: Tactics after she defeats too many demons in the Netherworld. The demons pledge their loyalty to her and declare her to be a Demon Overlord, much to her dismay.
  • Pathfinder: Kingmaker starts off with a contest: whoever can clear a particularly tough bandit gang out of a chronically lawless territory wins an appointment as Baron(ess) of the region. But that's only the beginning; if you want to hold on to your new land and title you have to personally defend it against all aggressors, from the mundane to the godlike. Partway through the game, one particular display of strength impresses your sponsor enough to earn independence, upgrading your barony to a full-blown kingdom.
  • The closest thing to a government body seen in the mainstream Pokémon games is the Pokémon League, whose leader is the Champion, recognized as the region's strongest Trainer. The Battle Chateau in Pokémon X and Y has ranks based on skill in pokémon battles. Barons/Baronesses and Viscounts/Viscountesses have pokémon around level 15-20 while the Dukes/Duchesses have teams at around 50. The player becomes the Grand Duke/Duchess by beating every other trainer in the Chateau.
  • The Reason of Yosuga in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. In the Shin Megami Tensei series as a whole, this is a common argument against the path of Chaos: That it will lead to the strong being given a license to destroy the weak.
  • The Thraddash of Star Control 2 are willing to reshape their society along your very whims once you've killed about a third of their military. Their history is a series of numerically ordered Cultures, each one defeating the previous one in total war. They've nuked themselves back to the stone age five times, and each culture considers itself the strongest due to this tradition. Kick enough ass and you're in charge of everything.
  • Cosmetically happens in StarCraft II. Every terran unit starts as a Private, then increases in rank depending on how many kills they scored. Zerg and Protoss do the same, but with different titles. Heroes always have a set rank, though.
    • The Tal'darim faction of Protoss have this as standard policy. A Tal'darim can challenge their direct superior to ritual combat called "Rak'shir". There's an interesting twist to it: the supporters of either combatant can indirectly aid them by lending psionic energy to them. So the winner will not only be the stronger combatant, but one who has more capable allies. This is meant to ensure that Amon's followers are capable, as well as reinforcing a cultural mindset centered around brutality and servitude.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic The Sith Emperor is in every way deserving in his position, being a being with such connection the dark side his power is near godly. So much so he single-handedly captured Revan, a godly force user in his own right.
  • The Zuul from Sword of the Stars operate on this mentality. They are a Hive Mind, so the strongest personality directs the collective... until it shows weakness, at which point all the ones who can challenge it will do so.
  • Tales of Xillia: Gaius got to be King of Rieze Maxia by kicking ass all the way to the top. He even kicked Maxwell's ass (though he had help from another Physical God).
  • In Team Fortress 2, Australians choose their king via kangaroo boxing. While no real detail is provided due to Rule of Funny, presumably whoever defeats the kangaroo becomes king. Aussie businessman Saxton Hale similarly structured his company so that anyone who could beat him in a fight gains control of it, but luckily suffers from Testosterone Poisoning. Then a little girl challenges him, and his Wouldn't Hurt a Child attitude quickly leads to his unemployment.
  • Winning the King of Iron Fist Tournament gives you complete control of the Mishima-Zaibatsu in Tekken.
  • In Tropico when you decide how your character became El Presidente, a military coupe is an option.
  • Beastmen packs in Tyranny operate on this principle, with the pack's internal pecking order being decided by formal challenges between members. The Player Character can take command of a Beastman pack called the Stonestalkers in some of the game's paths, by challenging and defeating their current leader and her closest followers.
    • The Scarlet Chorus has only three laws for its members to follow. The two important ones are "Take What You Want, But Keep What You Take" and "The Strong Lead, the Weak Serve", which pretty much codifies Asskicking Equals Authority as expected behavior. The Chorus has no military ranks; if you command someone else, you were strong enough to subdue them.
  • Wolf is about simulating the life of a wolf. If you want to be alpha (and thus have breeding rights), you're going to need to whip every wolf who thinks they can take you.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Ogre hierarchy is based solely on asskicking. Basically, rank and gear go towards whoever can fight for it, since Ogres lack the mental capacity to elect someone democratically.
    • Notably, in the Dire Maul dungeon players can be declared king(s) of the Dire Maul Ogres by killing the current king (who earned his title by declaring himself king and killing anyone who challenged him). Doing so without killing any of his lieutenants is a Self-Imposed Challenge that has a chance of dropping epic level gear.
    • Also, the now-abolished honor ranking system lived and breathed this trope: The Grand Marshal and High Warlord ranks were awarded to characters who week after week were the most lethal among their respective factions. In practice, this required nearly nonstop combat for several months.
    • The tribal Horde races (orcs, tauren and trolls) all seem to be this. It's been stated many times that the leaders of tribes are the most powerful warriors in the tribe (or, in the case of trolls, most powerful witch doctors).
    • In the Warlords of Draenor expansion, this happens to a Living Legend renowned for their ability to take names — your character, who gets put in charge of a garrison established in Shadowmoon Valley (for Alliance) or Frostfire Ridge (for Horde) specifically because of your personal strength and power, not to mention the people you've helped and the evil mobs you've taken down over the course of playing the game.
    • Warlords of Draenor also deconstructs the idea with the Iron Horde. Each chieftain is the strongest member of their clan with Grom, the strongest of them all, as Warchief. However, while one of the greatest warriors ever, Grom is a terrible general who loses control over almost the entirety of Draenor (holding only Tanaan Jungle) and most of his Iron Horde's leaders have been killed by the first major content patchnote .
    • In Legion, the player character is named leader of an entire order for their class (Shamans leading the Earthen Ring, Death Knights leading the Knights of the Ebon Blade, etc) due to embodying everything their class stands for, mostly being able to kick ass and take names.
  • In Xenonauts, soldiers are promoted to higher ranks based on the number of skill upgrades they achieve through training. And since the training consists solely of killing alien invaders...

    Web Animation 
  • In Hazbin Hotel, the only real authority the denizens Hell respect is the ability to hurt people who cross you. Lucifer is the ultimate ruler because, as a former archangel, he outstrips everyone else by a wide margin, while his daughter Charlie is rarely given the time of day because she's too nice to regularly threaten people. Alastor got his position by curbstomping all competitors in a bloody rampage (and broadcasting it on radio).
  • RWBY:
    • The Great War only comes to an end after ten bloody years when the Warrior-King of Vale is forced to take to the battlefield on Vacuo. Legend claims that his actions are single-handedly so apocalyptic for everyone that the leaders of the other three kingdoms immediately surrendered and offered him their kingdoms. He was able to use the situation to broker a peace treaty at Vytal, force the kingdoms to all revisit and redesign the structure of kingdoms and how they're run, and create the four Huntsmen Academies. However, he refused control of the offered kingdoms and ended the Vale kingship, becoming a teacher at Vale's new academy.
    • Notably averted both with the titular team and huntsmen teams as a whole. Despite that the teams are made up of badass monster hunters, the leader is not necessarily its strongest member. Ruby, while undeniably strong, is hardly above her teammates and it's her sister Yang who ends up representing the team in the final stage of the Vytal Tournament. Even more visible with Jaune, who is actually the weakest member of team JNPR but is made a leader because of his tactical abilities... and likely because all his teammates are either too asocial, too submissive or too crazy to lead.
    • Deconstructed with Adam Taurus, a leader figure for the White Fang. His combat prowess earns him respect in the organization and leads the High Leader, Sienna Khan, to put Adam in charge of a White Fang cell in Vale. There, he garners the attention of Cinder and her faction, who provide him with resources to expand his power. Eventually, he manages to kill Sienna and take over the White Fang as a whole... but he has no real leadership ability; he's too Ax-Crazy, spiteful, and generally unstable to actually keep an organization together. The White Fang disbands after a few months of Adam's leadership, because he is incapable of thinking in the long term and putting the needs of the group above his personal vendettas.

    Web Comics 
  • Blonde Sunrise:
    • The heir to the lycan queen gains her position by defeating every other eligible female lycan in a battle royale. Elaine is unusual for being strong enough to gain the position at a very young age, though some other lycans Leonard meets make the claim that she only won because those stronger than her were eliminated sooner.
    • Zigzagged in the case of lycan kings. The heir to the lycan king is normally chosen from birth by default, as it's believed that any male children of the king and queen are worthy simply by virtue who they're descended from. note  However, they can be challenged if perceived as unworthy for any reason, with the price of losing being banishment from their territory.
  • In Supernormal Step, Cavan Henderson was voted dictator of the United States because he single-handedly defeated Hitler... who was a little green gremlin.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja one villain has a plan to take over the presidency by convincing Americans that it works this way. The arc ends with the good doctor pointing out all the many flaws in the plan.
  • Erika and the Princes in Distress : The Kingdom of Brutes follows this logic. Whoever manages to defeat the Queen in battle can rightfully take her place, and many women are hoping to do so before Erika becomes Queen herself, as they consider her too weak for the role and find the idea of dueling her instead of her mother humiliating because it would be too easy. Meanwhile, the weak are relegated to the poor district of the kingdom, and helping them out rather than letting them strive for themselves is highly frowned upon.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • This is the reason the imp offers for trying to attach itself to V.
    • There's also the quicker way to become the supreme leader of a rather large army.
    • Similarly, The Bandit King set up his band of bandits with this as a rule. Unfortunately for him, his daughter, a sorceress, grew up to be more powerful than he was. Then he takes the title back after his daughter is weakened by most of the party, and is accidentally knocked out by Durkon, who uses his authority to disband the bandits.
  • This is the way of the world in Gosu. Justified since it's set in a world of martial arts, where strength decides everything.
  • In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, this is the basis for most Creatures' system of (ahem) ethics. On the brighter side, it means revenge is pretty rare, since, by such logic, if you were defeated, you deserved to be.
  • In S.S.D.D this is the basic principle of the Collective of Anarchist States' hierarchy, though most challenges are non-violent, a lower ranking Advisor is promoted if he challenges a superior's decisions and gets a better result. The CORE is a bit more Authority Equals Asskicking due to their use of cybernetic implants.
  • In Strays, leaders fight for it — then, they are part wolf. Intervention of friends is dirty pool.
  • In Gone with the Blastwave the red army promotes solely based on kill count.
  • In TwoKinds the Basitin operate on this principle after the three generals are killed the succession is largely decided by means of duels, and the king is nearly eight feet tall, in a species that is rarely more than 5'5".
  • Exterminatus Now amusingly combines this with The Peter Principle. Antonius Schaefer is the main characters' superior and he is completely incompetent at his job, relying on his put-upon subordinate, Inquisitor Riktor to run things. However, when he gets a (false) lead on eBay being an international weapons' smuggling operation, he found that it actually was part of a criminal conspiracy and took it down.
  • In Girl Genius, this trope is how Baron Wulfenbach, the son of a minor noble house who had been missing for several years, managed to conquer the majority of a continent — the official motto of the Wulfenbach Empire is "Don't Make Me Come Over There" which pretty much sums up the Baron's response to everything.
    Klaus Wulfenbach: So I stopped [the war]. And I did it my way this time. No more negotiating. No more promises. No more second chances. And I did it alone. Because I had to. And it worked.
  • In Nebula, this is how the social structures in space tend to end up — the biggest and strongest ones there, the stars, control the smaller and weaker planets on the grounds that they're... bigger and stronger and they can burn people to death if they want to. How good of a job they do of it depends on the star, though most do seem to feel a genuine urge to protect their planets.
  • In at least one universe of the Dragon Ball Multiverse, this is how the Saiyan monarchy is determined: whoever kicks the most ass becomes king. Bardock takes advantage of that: when the Saiyans refused to believe him about Frieza planning to destroy them all, he challenged King Vegeta for the throne and won, giving him the authority to order the Saiyans to attack.
  • This is the reigning philosophy in Kill Six Billion Demons, thanks to the erstwhile home of the Gods being settled by The Multiverse's preeminent wielders of Enlightenment Superpowers, falling to a centuries-long Universal War, and being divided among the final seven self-styled God Emperors to survive.
    Mathangi ten Meti, Murder the Gods and Topple Their Thrones: Reach Heaven through violence, then, girl.
  • Guilded Age: A common trend with several races of the World's Rebellion, particularly the trolls and the landsharks.
  • How society works in the Unordinary world. You have status based on your power, though this includes people with noncombat powers that are useful to the powerful people as well, like the Living Lie Detector who works for the Authorities or Elaine with her Healing Hands. Thus Authority Equals Asskicking is often but not always true.
    • This leads to John being kicked out of his first school: he was strong enough they couldn't control him and volatile enough to not cooperate, and in a world like this there's no room for someone like that in the system.
    • This is also probably why the vigilantes are being hunted down. Can't have people strong enough to change the system changing it in ways you don't like...
  • Unholy Blood: The generals of the powerful Vampire creator "God" are called the "Angels of death" and gain their position by defeating all competing vampires in their region. There are seven "Angels of death" in total, with each controlling a portion of South Korea and fending off any challengers to their spot.
  • In Tower of God, there's a ranking system that gives everyone who's reached the highest floor a Rank based on their achievements — a literal number indicating how many places down they are from the top. It has been pointed out that Rank is not only based on power and combat ability. Well, that needed to be pointed out, since so much of it seems to be based on that. Two people eventually managed to reach a higher Rank than the God-Emperor himself, and they both did so by showing unprecedented power in combat.

    Web Original 
  • Destroy the Godmodder: The Godmodder himself is the highest ranking godmodder in Minecraft. However, to the ascend the ranks of the godmodding tiers, one must defeat other equally powerful godmodders. It took a lot of asskicking for the Godmodder to reach the top.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Mr. Popo and his pecking order. And don't question about the pecking order at all.
    Mr. Popo: It goes: you, the dirt, the worms inside of the dirt, Popo's stool, Kami, then Popo. Any questions?
    Krillin: Uh yeah, I... (gets punched out of Kami's lookout) AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! ("Krillion Owned Count: 3" pops up on the screen)
    Mr. Popo: Enjoy the climb back up, bitch!
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, the strongest and/or most cunning demons end up in leadership positions in the hordes. Anyone can challenge the current leader of any tier, and if the previous holder of the title is defeated, the victor takes the title.

    Western Animation 
  • According to Word of God, the title of Fire Lord in Avatar: The Last Airbender is completely up for grabs as long as the ambitious firebender is able to defeat the current Fire Lord in battle. Due to this, the Fire Lord tends to be the strongest Firebender in the Fire Nation. Fire Lord Ozai himself is said to be powerful enough that only the Avatar would be able to defeat him. His brother Iroh and his kids Zuko and Azula, all of whom had the title at one point, are all no slouches either. The only Fire Lord who hasn't been confirmed to be a bender is Zuko's daughter Izumi in The Legend of Korra but her son who's presumably the crown prince note  is a bender.
  • In Ben 10: Alien Force, this is an interplanetary law, allowing anybody who's powerful enough to beat the strongest person on a planet control over that planet. Vilgax conquers planets this way.
  • Junko in Storm Hawks grew disappointed not that his people were obsessed with being strong, but that the leader of his people sided with the evil Cyclonians because he interpreted their mantra of "the strongest rule because strength brings power" into one that the Wallops should ally with the strongest faction out there rather than fight it. This was either smart with how close the finale was, or pretty dumb considering the Storm Hawks consistently thwart them. Junko calls him on it twice, accusing him of being afraid of Cyclonia, and later denouncing that Strength without the will to use it for good is worthless.
  • Beast Wars:
    • The Predacons seem to operate on this principle — when Optimus Primal is kidnapped by the Vok, turncoat Dinobot insists that he should lead the Maximals because he's the strongest. Unfortunately for his ambitions, Maximals elect their leaders by secret ballot.
      • This actually explains why this Megatron's leadership was fraught with multiple Starscreams. In Predicon society, it is considered the duty of an underling to betray his superior if his superior is a poor leader. A superior's duty is to prove he is worthy to leave, by stopping any possible betrayal from their underlings. This often means being smarter and failing that stronger than your underlings.
    • Their ancestors (the normal evil faction), the Decepticons, make this policy very explicit. Since the entire faction is made up of vicious murderers, the only leader who'll survive is one strong and smart enough to terrify them into submission.
  • This is repeated with the Predacons in Transformers: Prime: Predacons Rising. Darksteel and Skylynx refuse to follow Predaking until he hands them their skidplates.
    Darksteel: And who made you boss?
    Predaking: I am not your boss, I am your KING!
  • Ninjago: The Serpentine tribes decide their leadership with the "Slither Pit", a gladiatorial arena tradition that can take place in different locations and which they also sometimes have as a sport with no serious outcome.
  • The Powerpuff Girls episode "Impeach Fuzz" has the Mayor ousted from office by Fuzzy Lumpkins. He beats him in a wrestling match to regain control. Granted, this was Fuzzy's idea.
  • The TMNT episode "The People's Choice" involves two aliens whose electoral process involves combat with the current ruler. Donatello remarks that the way we choose our leader is more peaceful, with Raphael adding "most of the time."
  • In Thundercats 2011, this is the ethos of the Catfolk-populated kingdom of Thundera, who style their ThunderCats as the bringers of "law and order to a world of warring Animals" assuming that only their race is the one "strong enough to maintain this fragile peace!" This culture is reflected in Old Soldier Panthro's refusal to accept young king Lion-O as his liege until Lion-O has proven his prowess with the Sword of Omens.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! Man-Ape became king of Wakanda by killing Black Panther's father (he cheated).
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Princess Cadance and Shining Armor became the leaders of the Crystal Empire by kicking King Sombra's ass, and Twilight Sparkle became a princess thanks entirely to her powerful magical abilities. According to The Journal of the Two Sisters, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna became the leaders of Equestria by being able to raise the sun and moon, which was beforehand done by volunteer unicorns who would be left permanently drained of their magic by doing it.
    • In "Gauntlet of Fire", it is revealed that the dragons operate very openly under this mindset. They are ruled by Dragon Lords, absolute monarchs with term limits — after an unspecified amount of time, the Lord must step down and allow other dragons the chance to become the Lord. This is done through the eponymous Gauntlet, an insanely dangerous Death Course through an unstable "flamecano" designed to weed out all but the strongest of the dragons, as they believe that only the largest and strongest dragons can make good Dragon Lords. The episode itself subverts this trope, as Ember and Spike manage to get through the Gauntlet and make Ember the new Lord by virtue of being smarter than the other contestants and working together while the others all tried to tough it out alone.
  • Played with in Generator Rex. Since the most dangerous people in the world are ranked on just that rather than fighting skill, beating one of them in a fight or being a better fighter in general does not immediately give a higher ranking. They are still all very good fighters of course. Played straight with the bug jar, where No-Face is the undisputed master of a city filled with feral EVOs.
  • Garnet from Steven Universe is easily the strongest out of the Chrystal Gems, and the unofficial leader of the team. She doesn't talk much, but when she does, everyone listens. Her future vision often guides the Gems around/away from danger. All of the Gems make suggestions about what to do, but most of the time it's Garnet who makes the final decision.
    Amethyst: Yeah, Garnet's the boss.
    Pearl: Well, we're all a team. Garnet just has heightened perception that guides us towards our mission objective.
    Amethyst: Yeah, she's the boss.

    Real Life 
  • This is Truth in Television for a major part of human history. Many leaders came into power by kicking out the region's current leader, then doing the same to anyone who might try to challenge them later. (Although it's usually the army doing the asskicking rather than the individual leader.)
    • It is said that when Alexander the Great was asked to whom the succession would go, he replied "to the strongest." note  Of course no one ever figured out who was the strongest until the Romans came along and showed everyone, thus becoming The Empire.
    • Along the Scottish Border that was pretty much how the clans worked too. See The Steel Bonnets
    • Attila the Hun was the leader of the Huns because he was the strongest of them all.
    • In ancient Ireland, chieftains were required to be of sound body — if a king lost his arm or leg, he was expected to step down, since obviously he could not lead his armies or protect his people.
    • In the Soviet Army, this was the way of selecting the non-commissioned officers. Justified, since the enlistment was based on conscription, with all non-commissioned officers being conscripts, and the materiél was both very heterogeneous and overall education, especially in the Islamic republics, was generally low. Led often into serious Gung Holier Than Thou situations.
  • Perfectly in line of this trope, Russians and Europeans with this mindset fell easy prey to Mongols' Hordes from the East who put military discipline and coordination first, allowing them to use highly advanced tactics (in addition to other advantages).
  • Pick any animal species organized by packs or herds, and their social order will generally be ranked accordingly, with the strongest male exerting the most influence, both with regards to the pack as a whole, and with regards to the available females. As mentioned above, this included humans for most of our history.
    • The term "pecking order", in fact, originates from hens. Yes, even female chickens will fight to establish dominance. The alpha hen in a flock will frequently pull out the feathers of lower-ranked hens, often drawing blood. And since they usually attack the head, pecking out of subordinate hens' eyes is not unknown.
    • Wolf packs were previously thought to follow a hierarchy of alpha, beta, omega, etc., determined by fighting amongst themselves. Turns out that this is mostly limited to zoos, whereas wild packs consist of a mated pair and their offspring. The hierarchy among pups within a pack does follow this trope, but the parents remain the undisputed alphas, and at about two years old, a litter disperses to form packs of their own.
      • Though atypical, this can even happen with domestic dogs: if their owner fails to establish authority by the dog's standards, the dog may declare themselves "pack leader" and refuse to be trained.
    • The Leader of any horse herd is the dominant mare. She chooses routes and takes the best drinking/feeding. The stallion's role is to drive stragglers along and stay at the edges, guarding against threats. Taking down threat after threat wears on the stallion. Sometimes he'll allow a younger stallion to join him, though it means he'll eventually be displaced, thus making for a sith apprenticeship. However, the position of stallion is dependent on the collective graces of the mares- if they don't like a stallion they might gang up to attack him and drive him away even if he's the strongest around.
    • Chimpanzees subvert this trope as often as they play it straight. The dominant male of a troop is often the best fighter, but if he's not skilled at troop politics and tries to be too much of a bully, other males might team up to attack him together, using superior numbers to make up for being individually less powerful. This usually results in two or three males being co-dominant fore a time, often with the more dominant individual being one that's better at making friends with the rest of the troop rather than being the best fighter.
  • Warrant Officers in the United States military are part this and part Genius Bruiser. You get to be a warrant officer by being more skilled in your Military Occupational Specialty than an E-9 (highest ranking enlisted) in that specialty is supposed to be. Unlike regular commissioned officers, warrant officers don't need college degrees (though many have them anyway). Although outranked by regular commissioned officers, they still rate salutes from enlisted members, and can even be made company commanders in specialty units.
  • Among the Ijaw clans of southern Nigeria, the cultural period before the rise of war-canoe houses and kingship (dated usually as 17th Century) is known as the "Heroic" or "Warlord" period. Basically, clans rallied behind strong fighters who organised them along war-making lines (levies of warriors from each family, garrisons). The top warriors in each clan ruled in council under the strongman, who could be deposed for failure in warfare, or a challenge to single combat. Many of the founding warlords have been elevated to deity status, becoming "patron saints" of combat and national cult heroes for their clans (Fenibeso for Okrika, Egbesu for many of the central Ijaws).
  • Democratic Elections are (sometimes) a more civilized form of this. When you think about it they are a non-violent Combat by Champion involving an exchange of insults until the one whose reputation has been least destroyed gets the privilege of taking office and being blamed for all the evils of the world for his entire term. In any case it is about giving power to the one who was victorious in a contest.
  • This trope is a nice summation of the fascist worldview. In the 1930s and '40s, when it was also sometimes referred to as "Realism" in relation to foreign policy, Orwell summed it up with a supposed quote from Germany's "Iron Chancellor" Bismark: when asked if a failure in foreign policy had been caused by being too harsh to a defeated enemy, Bismark was supposed to have replied "No, it was clearly caused because we weren't harsh enough".
  • William Marshall was one of the most important English military commanders and at the end of his life the regent of the kingdom. While his father and elder brother had held the office of Marshall, he was sent to France as a child, where he eventually became one of the greatest champions in knight tournaments. He first got a foot into politics when he was chosen as the personal coach for the son of the king of England, because he was the greatest fighter in all of Europe! Even in his 70s he still fought in major battles, which probably helped him a lot in being chosen as the regent for the infant king after the death of King John.
  • This was how Henry IV, Edward IV, and Henry VII became King of England, securing their throne on the battlefield and eliminating opponents through violence. This is deconstructed by contemporary history, however, in that basing the legitimacy of rule on this means the king can find it difficult to pursue a non-war oriented governance policy, which either a) keeps your reign in conflict and breed resentment throughout it, or b) it gets you killed in the end. Notably, Henry V (son of Henry IV) found that the best way to avert this is the Genghis Gambit.
    • For that matter, it's how William the Conqueror became King of England. A French duke who'd never lived in England, while he was a cousin of the childless King Edward the Confessor, William was far from being his most obvious heir. Even his status as Duke of Normandy previously had to be secured by force since he was the illegitimate son of the previous duke. Edward's son-in-law Harold Godwinson was instead crowned as the next king, so William invaded England and defeated him in battle to seize the throne. one account even claims that William personally killed Harold on the field of battle, but this is considered highly unlikely and most accounts say Harold died after being shot in the eye by one of William's archers.
  • In the United States, many candidates for President cite their military service as part of their qualifications. The U.S. Constitution states that the President is Commander in Chief of the country's military, so theoretically military experience is important for tha part of the President's job. Notable Presidents who were war heroes include George Washington as the Ur-Example, while other notable veteran Presidents include Dwight D. Eisenhower, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Theodore Roosevelt. A full list of Presidents' military service is here.
    • On the other hand, a lack of military service, or at least claims of exaggeration or lying about it, can be a detriment. One of the reasons for John Kerry's defeat in the 2004 election is considered to have been how other Vietnam veterans accused him of falsifying his exploits in the war. George W. Bush and many other Republican leaders were also called "chickenhawks" for their eagerness to go to war despite most of them not having actually served. Barack Obama and Donald Trump were also criticized by their political opponents for their having never served in the military.
  • Two examples from Nazi Germany:
    • Adolf Hitler won an Iron Cross First Class and an Iron Cross Second Class during the First World War. Having those decorations helped to give him the confidence to stand up to the generals during the Second World War. However, he never achieved high rank and some German generals who did achieve high ranks often viewed him with contempt. When German field marshal Friedrich Paulus was losing badly against the Soviet Union and Hitler ordered him to commit suicide, Paulus replied that "I have no intention of shooting myself for that Bohemian corporal," a derisive nickname several other Germanl generals had for Hitler. Notably, Hitler achieved power due more to his charisma and political skills rather than any actual military ability, which became painfully clear with some of his decisions during the war.
    • Hermann Goering's main qualification for being in charge of the Luftwaffe was that he had been a successful fighter pilot in the First World War. However, the skills required to lead a small group into combat are not the same as those required to lead a large organisation.
  • Before founding the Fascist Party, Benito Mussolini had fought in World War I as a bersagliere (Italy's shock troops, best known for their good aim and toughness), being promoted to corporal for valour in combat and often volunteering for the most dangerous missions until the bomb-thrower he volunteered to use blew up on his face.
  • Daniel Inouye was a Medal of Honor recipient who received said award for the insane badassery he pulled during the Italian Campaign of World War II (including slaughtering several German soldiers after having his arm blown off by a grenade). After the war, he went to be elected to the US Senate, becoming both the longest-serving senator in history and the President pro tempore of the United States Senate. His reputation as a war hero obviously helped him here.


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