"Many organizations today have a well-defined mission with enduring principles that matter, not only to employees, but to other stakeholders," John Bingham, BYU professor of organizational leadership and strategy, said.
"It's a shift from the old paradigm. In these companies, it's less about who you know," he said.
The study found that those who exhibit a strong belief in a brand's mission or cause become more influential in important company circles, while those simply focused on punching the clock become more peripheral players - regardless of formal company position or overall performance.
For the study, Bingham and his colleagues surveyed employees at organizations with mission-based cultures.
One of those organizations was an outdoor footwear manufacturer founded on principles of environmental sustainability that engages in several green policies, such as subsidizing employees who ride bikes to work and buying electricity generated by wind power.
"Those who were true believers in this company's cause were considered idea leaders and influenced how other employees viewed their work," Bingham said.
"If the mission is a legitimate part of an organization's identity, that tends to be the case," he said.
The study is published online in management journal Organization Science.