That's how dominance hierarchies work. Not all hierarchies work that way.

An example of an actual merit-based hierarchy is the seed for a sports team in a tournament. The teams that have won are ranked higher than the teams who have lost. There is no way, short of bribing the refs or otherwise cheating, to manipulate the hierarchy and just because you had a high ranking in the past has no bearing on your ranking today. Unlike a dominance hierarchy, bullying or coercive behavior will not improve your ranking. In fact, it might get you ejected from the tournament instead.

Another type of hierarchy is one of actualization. This is an organizational structure where the leaders not only expect support and respect from those whom they have authority over, but they also give it back reciprocally. Organizational goals get achieved through collaboration and relatedness, rather than paternalism or threats.

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