Potassium leak channels are essential to neurophysiological function. Leaks suppress excitability through maintenance of resting membrane potential below the threshold for action potential firing. Conversely, voltage-dependent potassium channels permit excitation because they do not interfere with rise to threshold, and they actively promote recovery and rapid re-firing. Previously attributed to distinct transport pathways, we demonstrate here that phosphorylation of single, native hippocampal and cloned KCNK2 potassium channels produces reversible interconversion between leak and voltage-dependent phenotypes. The findings reveal a pathway for dynamic regulation of excitability.