Are the powerful rude, or do the rude become powerful? Too often the criticism reflects more than the "behaviour" of the powerful.
I've known a few powerful people. Gracious, charming, helpful. I've also known a few rude people. They do not get better with a little bit of power. Here is where we then move into gratuitous management: "What are you doing? That? I want you to do this." "What are you doing? This? I want you to do that." This is a very real life situation.
Another Why? is the fact that some people (I hate to go all cliché, like you know (sic) ) rise to their level of incompetence. Every question elicits i.e.: the reaction--Why? "What time is it?" "Why? Do you have someplace to go?" The rudeness is a defensive posture.
Another revolves around group norms and social norms I've discussed on Linkedin. Some people are convinced that powerful people are rude and become rude (or more rude) with the acquisition of power.
Other people use "rude" as a shield to protect themselves. Be perfectly honest. There are people who simply do not know how to be gracious. Their insecurity causes them to be rude.
Some people are not really rude but extremely aggressive. They've come up through the ranks where they know (it takes on to know one) that being "warm and fuzzy" will make them targets for those who want to exploit the good nature of others. They know that by being aggressive they are complying with one of the norms of the demographic subset. Silly to say? Well, in some situations people view those who are not bully-like as not being strong leaders. Authoritarian does not mean authoritative. Authoritarian is a culture where being submissive to authority is a "norm". Faintly reminiscent of the girl who stood me up twice, when I was 14 (My Mom thought I was too young to date women and insisted I date girls my own age.) When I finally convinced her to explain why, she replied that she wanted to see what I would do. I was nice about it. I failed the test. She needed a boyfriend who would be aggressive--fit into the pack, if you will.
Then, of course, there are all the clichés, slogans, and platitudes about power