Gravity Forms sets the default value of dropdown fields to the first item in the list. This is not a problem except when you have a required field and you want to ensure that the user explicitly chooses a value and not have it chosen accidentally.
The solution is simple but if you don’t know what it is, it can lead to frustration and poor form design.
Solution: simply add a blank value to the top of the list.
This way, if the user does not select a value, Gravity Forms throws a validation error and forces the user to choose another non-blank value.