Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The fear of failure

Written by: on October 24, 2014


In modernity there is a prevailing quest for the taste of free and successful societies. People are eager to find purposeful careers and meaningful ways to express their rights or lack thereof. The use of freedom of speech can allow for the voicing of certain issues through contestations. Religious freedom at its core aims to foster a legally binding environment and culture where people of diverse faith backgrounds are free to practice or not practice a religion. Along with humanity’s desire for the respect of human rights, it is fair to say that people share the desire to contribute to the world positively. However, people’s world view and priorities are not always at par and at times lead to conflict. With the possibility of conflict, emerges the fear of failure as well. What are the rewards of failure? Hirschman’s book Exit, Voice, and Loyalty,and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Forms, Organizations and States, articulates the manner in which entities might be positioned to navigate their existence and experience with shortcomings.

When groups seek to work towards certain ideals, there is need to acknowledge people’s liberty, dignity and ability to make helpful decisions in general. One of the elements that stuck to me was failure. The openness to failure is also critical pieces since people are not perfect. Hirschman notes:

Under any economic, social, or political system, individuals, business firms, and organizations in general are subject to lapses from efficient, rational, law-abiding, virtuous, or otherwise functional behavior. No matter how well a society’s basic institutions are devised, failure of some actor to live up to the behavior which is expected of them are bound to occur, if only for all kinds of accidental reasons.[1]

Hirschman normalizes the topic of failure as he endeavors to put a frame work that explains the opinions people tend to apply during their involvements with organizations. Yet the author also ensures to differentiate between the nature of Exit, Voice and Loyalty. Economies are dynamic spheres and require tenuous competition. Exit as a response from societies is particular to economics. This means that companies and organizations have got to race for the customer’ attention by producing products that appeal to consumers for profit. In the event of failure, Hirschman shows:

The customer who, dissatisfied with the product of one firm, shifts to that of another uses the market to defend his welfare or to improve his position: and he also sets in motion market forces which may induce recovery on the part of the firm that has declined in comparative performance. This is the sort of mechanism economics thrives on. It is neat-one either exists or one does not; it is impersonal-any face-to-face confrontation between customer and firm with its imponderable and unpredictable elements is avoided and success and failure of the organization are communicated to it by a set of statistics; and it is indirect…[2]

The fear of failure is a common especially among most of the people who work and live in modern societies that thrive on competitive markets.  This is why the practice of certain spiritual disciplines is significant. Spiritual traits like prayer, reflection on inspirational literature and solitude. These and more might not deal with the root cause of the fear of failure but can allow for time and space to work through possible trigger issues through counselling.


[1]Albert O. Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Forms, Organizations and States, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970. 1

[2] Ibid., 16.

About the Author

Michael Badriaki

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