Coke exec finds his leadership in faith

Coke bottler Frank Harrison's Christian faith figures prominently in his reading.

Harrison, the CEO of Charlotte's Coke Consolidated, recently read “Lead Like Jesus: Lessons from the Greatest Leadership Role Model of All Time,” by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges.

“While I am trying, I have a long way to go to become a true servant leader,” said Harrison, whose great-grandfather in 1902 opened a Coke bottling plant in Greensboro. He favors books “that challenge me to grow and that give me new insights into what I am involved with.”

Last month, that included “Dark Exodus: The Lost Girls of the Sudan,” by Beverly Moss. Harrison, 53, has visited the strife-torn nation and been moved by the plight of its people. He is involved with several projects to raise awareness of a country whose president was charged last month with genocide and war crimes, filed by an international prosecutor.

He calls himself “a little bit old school,” getting most of his news from print publications, including the Observer and the Wall Street Journal. He doesn't have an iPod, yet.

Harrison, a UNC Chapel Hill grad, follows his father running Coke Consolidated, the nation's second-largest bottler. The company operates predominantly in nine Southeastern states, including the Carolinas.

With his deep Coke roots, drinking Pepsi is unthinkable. But once, about 20 years ago, he had no choice. He was in Haiti with a church mission, digging fence post holes in sweltering heat. Drinking water ran out, and the only store sold only Pepsi. That was the first and last time Pepsi crossed his lips.

Harrison credits the Bible for his best life advice: Those who honor God, God will honor.

“I believe it's important advice about how we should treat others, conduct business and live our lives,” he said.

Stella M. Hopkins