Driven by the underperformance of many protected areas (PAs), protected area management effectiveness (PAME) evaluations are increasingly being conducted to assess PAs in meeting specified objectives. A number of PAME tools have been developed, many of which are based on the IUCN-WCPA framework constituting six evaluative elements (context, planning, input, process, output, and outcomes). In a quest for a more universal tool and using this framework, Leverington et al. (Environ Manag 46(5):685–698, 2010) developed a common scale and list of 33 headline indicators, purported to be representative across a wide range of management effectiveness evaluation tools. The usefulness of such composite tools and the relative weighting of indicators are still being debated. Here, we utilize these headline indicators as a benchmark to assess PAME in 37 PAs of four types in Krasnoyarsk Kray, Russia, and compare these with global results. Moreover, we review the usefulness of these indicators in the Krasnoyarsk context based on the opinions of local PA management teams. Overall, uncorrected management scores for studied PAs were slightly better (mean = 5.66 ± 0.875) than the global average, with output and outcome elements being strongest, and planning and process scores lower. Score variability is influenced by PA size, location, and type. When scores were corrected based on indicator importance, the mean score significantly increased to 5.75 ± 0.858. We emphasize idiosyncrasies of Russian PA management, including the relative absence of formal management plans and limited efforts toward local community beneficiation, and how such contextual differences may confound PAME scores when indicator weights are treated equal.