We probe the physical mechanism behind the known phenomenon of power synchronization of two diode lasers that are mutually coupled via their delayed optical fields. In a diode laser, the amplitude and the phase of the optical field are coupled by the so-called linewidth enhancement factor, α. In this work, we explore the role of optical phases of the electric fields in amplitude (and hence power) synchronization through α in such mutually delay-coupled diode laser systems. Our numerical results show that the synchronization of optical phases drives the powers of lasers to synchronized death regimes. We also find that as α varies for different diode lasers, the system goes through a sequence of in-phase amplitude-death states. Within the windows between successive amplitude-death regions, the cross-correlation between the field amplitudes exhibits a universal power-law behaviour with respect to α. © 2011 IOP Publishing Ltd.