We have all heard tales of, and sometimes directly experienced, the rarefied world at the top of glass towers. Just how in-touch are the leaders who work in these spaces that can be so removed from the real world?

Two recent media gaffes - by the respective CEOs of insurer AIG and the largest producer of pasta Barilla - seem to indicate: not that much.

The head of insurer American International Group (AIG.N) apologized for a "poor choice of words" on Tuesday after coming under fire for equating criticism of banker bonuses with the lynching of African-Americans in the Deep South. -- Reuters

Italian pasta brand Barilla is facing an international backlash and calls for a boycott after its CEO made anti-gay comments during an Italian radio interview. “I would never do an advert with a homosexual family ... if the gays don’t like it they can go an eat another brand ..." -- Huffington Post

Regardless of these CEOs' personal beliefs and feelings, the real world is where people (customers) live. And people do take offence quickly especially when the issues raised are already sensitive, and they involve an already vulnerable group. Fanned by social media, things can change very quickly indeed.