First we have the findings of over a decade ago by psychologist Daniel Goleman. As summarized in the Harvard Business Review:
In his research at nearly 200 large, global companies, Goleman found that while the qualities traditionally associated with leadership—such as intelligence, toughness, determination, and vision—are required for success, they are insufficient. Truly effective leaders are also distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence, which includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.Here, empathy is "the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people" and "skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions," while social skill is "proficiency at managing relationships and building networks" and "an ability to find common ground and build rapport."
One 2009 study in Psychological Science found that, in conversations with strangers, higher-status people tend to be more doodling and fidgeting and also use fewer "engagement cues"--looking at the other person, laughing, and nodding their heads.
A 2010 paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that "lower-class individuals" turned out to be better performers on measures of "prosocial" virtues as generosity, charity, and helpfulness."
A third study found that those of higher status were noticeably worse at assessing the emotions of others or figuring out what facial expressions meant.
How do we resolve this apparent contradiction?
When I calculated the ratio of technical skills, IQ, and emotional intelligence as ingredients of excellent performance, emotional intelligence proved to be twice as important as the others for jobs at all levels.
But this does not explain why "high status" individuals are "worse at assessing the emotions of others or figuring out what facial expressions mean."
The other mystery, of course, is why the rest of us are so willing to keep bestowing high status on such nasty individuals--a mystery that dates at least as far back as junior high school.