Weird History
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11 Historical Leaders Who Had The Shortest Time In Office

Updated February 19, 2021 1.3k votes 235 voters 22.4k views11 items

List RulesVote up the leaders from history whose times in office were so short, they almost passed you by entirely.

When presidents or prime ministers are elected, there's an expectation the individuals will spend a certain number of days, weeks, and months in service to the government and the people. It extends even further when monarchs accede to the throne, often thought to their role for years or decades. 

While leadership positions can come with terms of office attached to them or be (theoretically) for life, that's not always how events have played out. Coups, untimely deaths, scandal - these can all result in a quick and sudden end to one's term. From the violent ousting of a president or a smooth transition between prime ministers, a short time in office may result in an individual being completely overlooked. 

Don't blink or you may miss them - vote up the shortest times in office from history. 

  • Photo: Wagner (modified by Ruffneck88) / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    When Adolf Hitler committed suicide in April 30, 1945, Joseph Goebbels took over as German Chancellor. As the former minister of propaganda and only surviving high-level officer within the Nazi Party, Goebbels' chancellorship was short, however. The day after he replaced Hitler, Goebbels and his wife, Magda, poisoned their six children, reportedly giving them morphine and cyanide, and then killed themselves.

    Surprisingly short time?
  • Photo: James Lambdin / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    William Henry Harrison holds distinction as the 9th President of the United States. He's also the president who held the office for the least amount of time and the first president to die while in office.

    Harrison took the oath of office on March 4, 1841. It's believed that his refusal to wear a coat or hat that very day may have contributed to the pneumonia that killed him on April 4th. Some scholars, however, attribute his untimely death to typhoid fever. 


    Surprisingly short time?
  • 7

    Christopher Okoro Cole Was President Of Sierra Leone For Two Days

    Politician Christopher Okoro Cole served as Sierra Leone's representative at the United Nations and ambassador to the United States during the 1960s. In 1970, he became chief justice of Sierra Leone's highest court and, in 1971, was named governor-general of the country. 

    After numerous military rebellions in early 1971, Sierra Leone became a republic in April. Cole was briefly sworn in as president on the 19th of April and, on the 21st, was replaced by Siaka Stevens, who'd been elected into office. 

    Surprisingly short time?
  • Photo: Zcriptz / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    As Part Of A Failed Coup In Venezuela, Pedro Carmona Was Installed And Removed From Office In A Matter Of Hours 

    When an attempt to remove Hugo Chavez from power took place in 2002, the conspirators decided businessman Pedro Carmona would replace the Venezuelan dictator as the head of state. Carmona was in office for less than one day, during which time he did abolish the 1999 constitution and dissolve several government institutions. 

    Chavez retook power in Venezuela within days of the coup. Carmona later said he wasn't a part of any plan to oust Chavez, but rather was"was called to fill a power vacuum that had occurred and to form a transitional government." because, as he was told, Chavez had resigned. 

    Surprisingly short time?