New Latitudes

Blair LaCorte T'90 on leadership and knowing when to let go.

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One of Blair LaCorte T’90’s great skills as a leader is not only to guide a company from infancy to success, but to know when to set it—and himself—free.

It’s mid-February and Blair LaCorte T’90 has had an interesting week. He went to the Grammys, hung out with Sting and Bruce Springsteen, attended several board meetings, and left his job as CEO of XOJET, a private aviation company. In a few days, he will be on a flight to New York to give a speech for the Kairos Society at the New York Stock Exchange.

But at this moment, he isn’t thinking about all that. He is on the phone with a reporter, saying hello to his wife, pulling into his driveway, and watching his dog escape and run down the street. Blair LaCorte is unruffled. That’s because he is at yet another exciting juncture in a long, successful career, and right now his mind is on the big picture: He is taking a break.

“It’s always a risk to step back because you’re taking yourself off a natural track,” says LaCorte. “But it’s not really a risk, it’s an investment. It’s one that pays off substantially.” LaCorte would know. One of his great skills as a business leader is not only to guide a company from infancy to success, but to know when to set it—and himself—free.

During LaCorte’s three-year tenure at the helm of XOJET, the company’s market share rose from 9 to 23 percent at a time when the private-aviation market shrunk by 30 percent. Under his watch, it became the world’s second-largest private aviation business and the fastest growing company in the history of the field. The brand is strong, the team is capable, and LaCorte decided the time was right for him to move on.

He has done this before. After notching stints at General Electric, Sun Microsystems, Cadis, Internet Capital Group, VerticalNet, and Savi Technology over about 20 years, LaCorte took a leap in 2004 and worked as an executive fellow at the Center for Digital Strategies at Tuck. From there, he went on to become an operating partner at TPG, one of the world’s largest and most diverse private equity firms. But it was his experience as a student at Tuck that he says gave him the ability—and willingness—to veer off a natural career track, an ability that has allowed him to innovate in five different industries. 

“I went to Tuck because I wanted to be in a community that offered something more than just academics,” says LaCorte. “Tuck offered the capability to get to know myself and that only comes through trust and teamwork with other people.”

In the coming months, LaCorte will return to work part time as a senior adviser for TPG, one of the world’s largest investment firms, and he will sit on the boards of four companies and two nonprofits. He will practice yoga, coach soccer, spend time with his three sons, play tennis, take spin classes, and, hopefully, fly through the stratosphere on one of Virgin Galactic’s first commercial space flights. But mostly, he plans to contemplate his next move.

“I’m going to learn over the next six months what’s happening in the world and I’m probably going to go back in and run something,” says LaCorte. “I think one of the keys in life is not to let the world define you. At the end of the day, the biggest risk is not to take risks.”