Whether you're looking at Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg, Jeff Bezos or anyone else in the Wildly Successful Club, confidence is visible in spades. It's this singular trait that arguably allows real leaders to push forward with the innovative ideas they have.

Buuut then you also have bad bosses, narcissistic leaders whose egos are so big they might be mistaken for national monuments.

Companies close their doors every single day because of those.

So let's agree that confidence is good and unchecked egotism is stinky gym socks. On that premise, your goal should be to build your self-assurance while still maintaining a healthy level of realistic, authentic humility. You can't let yourself become corrupted by the power you earn.

There are nine keys to building confidence while preventing the egotism employees repeatedly say they loathe.

1. Get feedback.

Any idea that isn't challenged by facts or other opinions is easier to accept as reality. Hearing what your flaws are or how to improve, framed in positive ways, is a useful reminder that you still have room to grow, even as it lays the foundation for you to take action and become better.

Invite others to share their thoughts and take the time to establish the real relationships that open communication requires.

2. Rub elbows.

Networking with experts--both those in your industry and out--reveals incredible opportunities for collaboration and support. But it also confirms that others are making their mark with incredible skills, knowledge and emotional intelligence, too.

Mentor where you can, but also find people who can mentor you. Taking the role of student will encourage you to stay respectful and sharpen yourself at the same time.

3. Take classes.

Even if you can't have lunch with Warren Buffett today, you can take a class online or read a book. Choose topics you've never touched to get a wakeup call on how much else is out there to absorb and perfect.

4. Check the numbers.

You might feel like the lead lion, but metrics are objective. Look at how you're actually performing through whatever tools or tests you can. Then compare that to current benchmarks or standards rather than to specific individuals. Because those standards likely will be revised over time, and because it's tough to remember information over the long haul, test and self-evaluate again regularly.

5. Focus on exertion.

Egotism often thrives because you hone in on what you've done, the end product or accomplishment. Instead of looking at the notches in your belt or aiming for another one, concentrate on the process and effort in what you're doing. If you're always giving your absolute best, then all that really matters is progress, however small.

6. Do the grunt work.

As you go up levels, the nature of your work can shift dramatically. You can lose touch with the parts of the process that are necessary but that have zero glamour.

Get on the floor once in a while with your lower-level workers, volunteer or shadow people who provide support behind the scenes.

7. Give praise and acknowledgment.

Egotistic leaders routinely take credit for what others have done. This quickly puts them at odds with employees. In fact, it's the behavior workers hate most in a boss, according to a Bamboo HR survey.

Don't buy into the idea that others are out to get you. Consciously point out others who have contributed and how, and tell them you appreciate them. This forces you to be realistic about your own effort and influence.

8. Look for what you didn't do.

Much of success comes from the blood, sweat and tears you put in. This is what makes us feel like we "should" win. But sometimes we come out on top because of elements out of our control or plain dumb luck. You might not choose to be born to parents who prioritize sending you to college, for example, but it still affects your ability to move forward.

9. Perform acts of kindness.

It doesn't matter if it's just holding the elevator or cooking your elderly neighbor an eight course dinner. To do acts of kindness, you have to look around, observe and recognize the needs of others, rather than thinking just about yourself.

Always ask where you can help. After all, meeting the needs of others is supposed to be what real business is all about.

Published on: Apr 11, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.