Dominant streams in leadership literature conceptualise it either as a role within sociopolitical structure or as a behavioural predisposition of agents. Leadership roles are determined by decisional power, most typically related to the hierarchical and structural position of agents within sociopolitical networks. Limitations in attaining meaningful predictions of leader potential can be related to the separation of leadership as an agency attribute from leaders as structurally embedded agents. Social network analysis allows for the contingent examination of both. In this article, a number of hypotheses are tested via an empirical case study where interaction and affiliation networks across multiple decision experiments are coupled with attribute and psychometric data of the actors. In this quasi-experimental setting, leadership emergence is studied among four groups of undergraduate students faced with a decision choice in an iterative political simulation game. Findings suggest that in egalitarian political systems, centrality in social networks is directly associated with political success, while in political systems imbued with power inequalities successful actors are idiocentric brokers. Methodologically, this study frames role simulation games as quasi-experimental tests. Group interactions can be controlled, but vitally also incorporated in studies of perceptions, behaviours and group outcomes. The use of attitudinal micro-surveys, psychometric tests, observation and relational surveys is combined for a comprehensive mapping of group dynamics suited to questions of agency. In conclusion, there are a number of insights offered on deploying these methods in tandem and the challenges inherent in such a research design.