While it has been well-documented when and how leaders matter in foreign policy, there is still no clear roadmap on how to connect and investigate the different possibilities that leadership studies offer for the benefit of role theory development. Thus, this article lays the foundation for a dialogue between role theory and leader-based approaches to foreign policy. We approach this as a ‘glass half full’ as leaders are present in role theory, but not properly integrated in terms of theorisation and methods to study their influence on the overall selection of roles. We present a range of possible ways to study the beliefs and personal characteristics of leaders and other motivational approaches that inform and shape their role selection process. A better integration of the individual level can give foreign policy scholars and practitioners a more complete picture of why governments decide to prioritise certain roles over others. Introducing a way forward in establishing a more robust connection between leaders and the roles of the state also provides scholars with a more complete toolkit to analyse and unpack agent-structure relations in foreign policy.