This article explores how political leadership and policy innovation can be enhanced through collaborative governance. The main findings are that while wicked and unruly problems create an urgent need for policy innovation, politicians are badly positioned to initiate, drive and lead this innovation. They are either locked into a dependency on policy advice from senior civil servants or locked out of more inclusive policy networks. In either case, they are insulated from fresh ideas and ultimately reduced to ‘policy-takers’ with limited engagement in policy innovation. Collaborative policy innovation offers a solution to these limitations.