The current, official title in German is Bundeskanzler(in), which means "federal chancellor", and is sometimes shortened to Kanzler(in). The 8th and current chancellor is Angela Merkel, who is serving her fourth term in office and is widely regarded as one of the most powerful people in the world. She is the first female chancellor.
The title of Chancellor has a long history, stemming back to the Holy Roman Empire, when the office of German archchancellor was usually held by Archbishops of Mainz. The title was, at times, used in several states of German-speaking Europe. The modern office of chancellor was established with the North German Confederation, of which Otto von Bismarck became Bundeskanzler (meaning "Federal Chancellor") in 1867. With the enlargement of this federal state to the German Empire in 1871, the title was renamed to Reichskanzler (meaning "Chancellor of the Realm"). With Germany's constitution of 1949, the title of Bundeskanzler was revived.
During the various eras, the role of the chancellor has varied. From 1867 to 1918, the chancellor was the only responsible minister of the federal level. He was installed by the federal presidium (i.e. the Prussian king; since 1871 called Emperor). The Staatssekretäre were civil servants subordinate to the chancellor. Besides the executive, the constitution gave the chancellor only one function: presiding over the Federal Council, the representative organ of the states (together with the parliament the law maker). But in reality, the chancellor was nearly always installed as minister president of Prussia, too. Indirectly, this gave the chancellor the power of the Federal Council, including the dissolution of parliament.
Although effective government was possible only on cooperation with the parliament (Reichstag), the results of the elections had only an indirect influence on the chancellorship, at most. Only in October 1918, the constitution was changed: it required the chancellor to have the trust of the parliament. Some two weeks later, Chancellor Max von Baden declared the abdication of the emperor and ceded power illegally to the revolutionary Council of People’s Delegates.