Courageous, Compassionate Leadership in Healthcare’s New Era

A passion for people leadership, creative problem-solving and community engagement are at the heart of Heather’s robust career.

Each year, the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association nominates female leaders in the industry who exhibit transformational leadership in their organizations. The 2021 Baxter Luminary award winner is Heather Knight, general manager of Baxter's U.S. Hospital Products business.

Here's an interview with Heather, who offers her insights on leadership:

Q: Tell us about your role at Baxter.

Heather: I joined Baxter in 2019 as General Manager of our U.S. Hospital Products business, where I lead multiple aspects of our multibillion-dollar business - sales, national accounts management, marketing, commercial operations, business integration, and technological innovation. Before Baxter, I spent 20+ years at various healthcare companies in leadership roles ranging from general management, sales and marketing.

Q: What powers your inspiration?

Heather: Mentorship, volunteerism and diversity and inclusion efforts fuel me in both my personal and professional life. I'm fortunate to have many mentors of my own who have paved the way for me, and I believe in paying it forward for the future. I’m currently the executive sponsor of the Baxter Black Alliance employee business resource group and Activating Change Today (ACT), Baxter's initiative to address racial injustice within the workplace, with our customers in the marketplace, and across the patients and communities we serve.

Outside of Baxter, I recently joined the Board of Directors of the global technology education nonprofit, Technovation, and I’m a founding member of the Chicago branch of CHIEF, an organization committed to further developing and networking with female executive leaders. Through these organizations, I get the opportunity to engage deeply, have courageous conversations on tough topics, and turn them into positive action and purposeful change. It’s highly motivating.

Outside of work, my family inspires me – including my two teenagers. My daughter is a fearless, competitive equestrian and my son is a committed soccer player.

Q: What do you think the future of leadership looks like?

Heather: For a long time, emotional intelligence – the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict – wasn't a core component of a leader's “skill set.” These are important behaviors that can be taught, practiced, and improved upon in ways that will ultimately benefit everyone.

We also must continue expanding diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, not only based on race, but also from a gender, cultural and experience standpoint. And driving equity in healthcare is a huge component that needs to be explored further at every end – from having representation in clinical trials to how we educate physicians on products at the point of care.

Q: How do you stay motivated and bring that energy to your teams?

Heather: As a 25-year veteran of this industry, I’m incredibly motivated as we emerge from the last 12 months of the pandemic. We have a tremendous opportunity to continue to leave our mark on the healthcare industry – especially the clinicians and patients we serve. To witness the urgency, comradery, and support we’ve had for each other – I hope we never lose that. And, there has been an inspiring balance of head, heart and guts that we’ve drawn from as the hospital setting as we know it has evolved so much.

It’s this support and alignment to Baxter's greater mission to save and sustain lives that has motivated us to keep pressing forward with speed and agility. Injecting some humor and fun at work has helped us, too. 

Q: How do you navigate through today's work-life integration?

Heather: I’m a big believer in the concept of work/personal life blending and being intentional and present in whichever role I’m in at that moment – whether it's as a mom to two active kids, partner to my husband, a daughter to two aging parents or as general manager of my team.

Sometimes that means taking calls from the soccer field while my son's practice is happening. Other times, it's prepping for a big presentation early in the morning or late at night so I can watch my daughter as a competitive Eventer at a random horse park across the U.S. between meetings. We all work hard but the opportunity to get outside, spend time with family and integrate our work is how I’ve managed to create some balance.

I’m also fortunate that I have a tremendous leadership team at Baxter. We work extremely hard and try to offer each other breathing room and some grace when we need it.