Kinsman our clouds are usually negatively charged. Net full of electrons and the ground surface are positively charged. Protons.
Check it out here:
Lightning happens when the potential difference between the clouds and the grounds becomes too large. Once the voltage reaches a critical strength (~300,000 Volt/Metre), the atmosphere(Ionized) can no longer act as an electrical insulator. First, a stepped leader is created at the base of the cloud which is a channel through which electrons in the cloud can travel to the ground. But while moving towards the ground, it searches for the most efficient(minimum electrical resistance) route possible. It does so by traveling 50-100 meters at a time then stopping for about 50 microseconds, then traveling another 50-100 meters. In this process it also branches out looking for the best route. As the stepped leader gets close to the ground, a positively charged traveling spark is initiated on some tall object (trees, towers etc) on the ground. The traveling spark moves upward and eventually connects with the stepped leader. Once the stepped leader and the traveling spark have connected, then electrons from the cloud can flow to the ground, and positive charges can flow from the ground to the cloud. This is known as return stroke. But this flow unlike the flow from up has a well defined shortest route now. This massive flow of electrical current occurring during the return stroke combined with the rate at which it occurs (measured in microseconds) rapidly superheats the completed leader channel, forming a highly electrically-conductive plasma channel. The core temperature of the plasma during the return stroke may exceed 50,000 K, which makes it shine so bright.
In your image above as well, you can see a lot of time is lost in looking for the route, whereas the return stroke just runs through the well defined channel and hence is much faster