I have to admit this was one of my early motivators as a scout leader. I think I have mentioned that I have three brothers and was always a little jealous of their scouting experiences. I thought it was cool when I found out that as an adult I could earn a few patches for my scout uniform.
In fact, I did not buy a uniform until close to the end of my second time being a den leader (I put it off that time because I was pregnant when called). Yet, I had saved my "Trained" and "Quality Unit" patches from the first unit I was in three years earlier, just in case I ever did buy a uniform, and now I wear them both proudly. It's a near miracle I was able to keep track of them so long.
Earning patches is certainly not the most pure reason to be a good leader, but it can help motivate someone who needs a push in the right direction. They are also a nice recognition for someone who just is a good leader. For those of us in between those two points, the square knots can act as a guide for ways to "magnify your calling" and do a little better.
The last one is where I am at right now. When I was asked to help out as a Pack Trainer, I was not exactly sure what that entailed. After all, everyone can get their training online now. What I have been doing could be a whole post by itself (I can see now why it's a good idea for every pack to have a Pack Trainer), but one thing I have been using as a guide is the little card of requirements for the Pack Trainer square knot. It lets me know what kinds of things I can be doing to give my pack the best.
So what are the square knots? Just about every position in scouting has at least one you can earn. Each award has a tenure requirement, which cannot overlap another (for example, if you were a Den Leader and wanted to earn both the Den Leader knot and the Cub Scouter knot, you would need to spend at least three years in your position). However, I believe the tenure does not have to be continuous, so if you spent a year here and a year there, that would be okay, as long as you met the other requirements. There are training requirements, which usually involve completing basic training and attending either University of Scouting or Roundtables. Then there are the performance requirements, which are the ones that let you know ways you can improve what you are doing. For some of the knots you need to complete all of the performance requirements. For some, you only need to complete a certain number.
You can read about the different knots here. You can also download the progress cards here.
If you were a scout as a boy, you may also wear knots for certain awards you earned. If you earned the Arrow of Light, Eagle or the religious award (this can be either as a Cub Scout or a Boy Scout) there are knots you can wear on your uniform representing each of those.
There is also a religious knot you can earn as an adult. You can see the requirements for the LDS knot here. Cards for this knot (there is also a medal that can be given with it) can be obtained from the Distribution Center (sometimes) or the LDS-BSA. Your bishop should provide a card for you, but occasionally a Scouter may want to take the initiative of procuring his own card. The tenure for this award can overlap your other awards. Interpretation of the award is up to your bishop. So if something seems vague (for example, you may wonder whether the three years serving in primary or young men need to all be in the same ward) you should ask your bishop. It's up to him to decide.
Once earned, the knots are to be worn centered, directly above the left pocket of your uniform (you can see this in the insignia guide and uniform inspection sheets). After three knots, you start a new row above the first (I saw Scouters in Omaha with multiple rows of knots). If you want to get things just right, the side of the knot with the loop on top is supposed to point to the right. There is no set order, but traditionally the knot that means the most to you is placed furthest right.
Good Scouters work hard and recognition is important. This is one way to recognize them. Bishops and Committee Chairs, I encourage you not only to encourage your leaders to earn knots, but to also find other ways to recognize and support them. Strong Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs will strengthen your whole ward, and that is worth some thank yous.