Colleagues put it simply: he cares about on-the-ground data, and he knows how to listen.
That much was clear in August when Kocherlakota, who turns 49 on Friday, donned a pair of jeans and took his board's nine directors on a tour of the booming oil fields of North Dakota.
In a 14-hour, 300-mile bus trek, they visited a fracking rig, a pipeline, a workers' camp, and a natural gas plant. They heard locals speak of life in the heart of the U.S. energy boom.
"His style is to let everybody else do the talking and he listens intently," said Lawrence Simkins, one of the board members and president of Montana-based Washington Cos, a privately owned transportation and equipment firm.
As the bus maneuvered truck-clogged roads, Kocherlakota got into a discussion with another director about the mental health toll on workers separated for months on end from their families.