Such individuals have become easier to identify this week, too, since the Cardiff City manager lost a trusted aide when the club opted to place Iain Moody, his head of recruitment, on gardening leave.
An enterprising start to their inaugural Barclays Premier League campaign - Cardiff have beaten Manchester City and Fulham - has been instructive about Mackay's ability to manage but the last few days have been about his capacity to cope with controversy in Wales.
That Vincent Tan, who assumed control in May 2010, turned Cardiff red during the summer has not prevented the Malaysian billionaire from causing supporters to colour the air again, removing Moody and naming Alisher Apsalyamov as interim replacement. Fans will not often be so invested in changes of staff beyond their club's manager and squad but this decision has been a source of angst, supporters at first railing against a lack of information after a statement told them only that Moody "was leaving the club with our thanks for his contribution", before being left perplexed by the arrival of his appointed successor: a 23-year-old friend of Tan's son once on work experience at the club.
It is the sort of situation which sounds funny so long as it is not happening to your club, but the respect for Mackay is such that few will have found it all that amusing. The value of Moody - who followed Mackay from Watford two years ago - could be totted up amid a summer in which Gary Medel arrived from Sevilla and Steven Caulker from Tottenham Hotspur but Tan is thought to have been discontented after having to invest a further £15m when the spending exceeded the £35m he had permitted.
It is thought that there has been debate as to whether that sum was intended to take into account costs beyond the initial transfer fees, although Simon Lim, the club's chief executive, would also have been required to sign off on deals and he has appeared to have escaped censure. Lim was expected to attend a board meeting held yesterday at which Mackay was also present, in part to discern the level of support he commanded from directors.
The 41-year-old might have been forgiven had he felt uncertain, since the arrival of Apsalyamov has seemed like a pantomime. There are those who would urge Mackay to look out behind him. Tan has reaffirmed his faith in his manager but the testimony of others would suggest the Scot will have been wounded by events.
"Iain is someone Malky has worked with for years," said Ross Wilson, who worked alongside both men as football business director at Vicarage Road and now performs a similar role at Huddersfield Town. "Malky will be disappointed. But he has kept his counsel and will not be jumping up and down - he'll handle things the way he always has: in a very professional manner.
"Malky is a very, very honest man; he's got integrity. I know sometimes those can be buzz words associated with people flippantly, but Malky Mackay has great integrity and a desire to do his job meticulously. As a man he's different class and as a manager, his record is there for all to see. He could handle anything that is thrown at him. Although this might disappoint him, he will handle it."
Those words are unlikely to become a eulogy of his time at Cardiff given that Mackay's agent, Raymond Sparkes, stated yesterday his client did not intend to resign, but any approach from another club might not easily be dismissed, either. The decision to remove Moody will have felt like an affront and the Scot's affinity with members of the board is certain to have been altered. It is his relationship with Tan which will draw the greatest intrigue, though, as will his rapport with Apsalyamov since the Kazakh has effectively gained responsibility of the club's transfer activity.
"Looking from the outside, it seems bizarre," said Wilson. "Not only is Iain's replacement someone out of left-field, but to be replaced by someone who has not got the same credentials, is strange. We are second guessing but those would be my feelings were someone with the credentials of Iain to be replaced by someone who doesn't appear to have anywhere near the same credentials."