The existence of a potential energy functional in the zero-Larmor-radius collisionless plasma theory of Kruskal & Oberman (Phys. Fluids, vol. 1, 1958 p. 275), Rosenbluth & Rostoker (Phys. Fluids, vol. 2, 1959, p. 23) allows us to derive easily sufficient conditions for linear stability. However, this kinetic magnetohydrodynamics (KMHD) theory does not have a self-adjointness property, making it difficult to derive necessary conditions. In particular, the standard methods to prove that an instability follows if some trial perturbation makes the incremental potential energy negative, which rely on the self-adjointness of the force operator or on the existence of a complete basis of normal modes, are not applicable to KMHD. This paper investigates KMHD linear stability criteria based on the time evolution of initial-value solutions, without recourse to the classic bounds or comparison theorems of Kruskal–Oberman and Rosenbluth–Rostoker for the KMHD potential energy. The adopted approach does not solve the kinetic equations by integration along characteristics and does not require that the particle orbits be periodic or nearly periodic. Most importantly, the investigation of a necessary condition for stability does not require the self-adjointness of the force operator or the existence of a complete basis of normal modes. It is thereby shown that stability in isothermal ideal-MHD is a sufficient condition for stability in KMHD and that, with a proviso on the long-time behaviour of oscillations about stable equilibria, stability in the double-adiabatic fluid theory, including the variation of the parallel fluid displacement, would be a necessary condition for stability in KMHD.