After crushing defeat to South Africa in their Perth opener, Knight led an emphatic response by clubbing the fourth century in the tournament's history against Thailand.
The 29-year-old has transformed herself into a modern T20 batter and Winfield says her charges love following Knight into battle.
"Heather always stands up when we need her," said Winfield.
"She's really determined to set an example and lead the way. Her hundred was a fine innings showing just the character she is.
"She loves to lead the pack and pave the way for us. It was important for us to get the win against Thailand, but also in the fashion we did it to turn things around and put our stamp on the competition.
"Heather has got those gear changes now that two or three years ago she didn't necessarily have. She's worked on her power hitting and it's inspiring for the rest of us."
Next up is a crunch match against Pakistan tomorrow, shaping up as a potential second-place decider with South Africa facing Thailand and expected to pull away at the summit.
Bismah Maroof’s outfit sprung a surprise with a thumping eight-wicket win over 2016 winners West Indies, throwing Group B wide open.
Winfield, part of the England side that beat Pakistan 3-0 in a series back in December, saw their resurgence first-hand as they packed a punch in Malaysia.
The Yorkshire-born star believes conditions in Australia are playing into the hands of South Asian sides.
“Pakistan already looked like they’ve improved from December,” said Winfield..
“They played some good cricket in that series in patches. Looking from afar, you read results, you win a series 3-0 and no-one delves into the details.
“They’re a much-improved side and they played some good cricket in Malaysia.
“This tournament is giving teams with a lot of slower bowling that don’t often score huge totals an opportunity, because they’re on good conditions with fast outfields.
“Often when you tour the subcontinent, if they don’t have a power game they find it harder. You get really good value for your shot in Australia. Those batting line-ups and those teams have come to life.
“That bodes well for a great tournament and it gives people across the board a better chance of playing good cricket.”