Darren Woods , chief executive of Exxon Mobil , fancies himself a grillmaster. His favorite cut of meat? The rib-eye steak.

James Gorman , the chairman and recently departed CEO of Morgan Stanley , used to regularly get physically sick from the stress of the job.

And Daniel Ek , who co-founded Spotify , is deeply conflicted about the enormous wealth he has achieved.

These are among the nuggets faithful listeners have picked up from a small Norwegian podcast that started two years ago and has become an unlikely destination for the world’s top CEOs.

It helps that the host is often one of the biggest investors in their companies.

This week, the podcast landed the guest who has been the most elusive: Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk, who talked about colonizing Mars, Tesla’s China competition and his view that artificial intelligence could become smarter than any single human by around the end of next year.

The show, called “In Good Company,” is the brainchild of Nicolai Tangen , a 57-year-old native Norwegian and former London hedge-fund manager who in 2020 was named CEO of Norges Bank Investment Management. That is the arm of the Norwegian central bank operating what is known as the oil fund , enriched by the nation’s vast oil and gas revenues.

The fund has never been bigger than it is this year, at around $1.6 trillion. But Tangen felt the fund—and the people running it—could be better understood by the public.

“We aim to be the most transparent fund in the world. It struck me that the real transparency here would be to show the Norwegian people what they own,” Tangen said in an interview. “I thought, you know, we own all these companies, we own big stakes , we actually have access to these CEOs.”

Each show featuring a corporate leader at the microphone typically begins by noting the number of shares the Norwegian fund owns of that company, along with the often eye-popping value of that investment. ($5 billion of Exxon shares, $4 billion of Nvidia , $2.2 billion of Disney , etc.)

Tangen has also shown a knack for spotlighting CEOs just before they make major news, including OpenAI’s Sam Altman and Nvidia’s Jensen Huang before the AI boom kicked off.

Before he went into finance, Tangen was trained as a military interrogator in the 1980s through Norwegian armed services, according to a fund spokesman. That program taught him Russian-language skills, and he subsequently worked in the Norwegian embassy in Moscow for less than a year.

For the podcast, Tangen and his team sometimes do a prep call with the featured company and are open to suggestions for questions. But no topic is off limits, the fund spokesman said. Even so, Tangen prefers a conversational approach over a confrontational one.

“What’s on your mind these days?” he asked Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to open a recent episode. Nadella talked about his 32-year Microsoft career and managing the prospect of AI as the “next big general-purpose technology.”

Tangen frequently lavishes praise on his CEO guests, calling them incredible, occasionally “the best,” or, at a minimum, influential or impressive. At the same time, he gently pushes guests on topics like executive pay and other matters of governance like board diversity and the companies’ impact on climate change.

In an interview with Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary , Tangen criticized the executive for the company’s carbon emissions: “Is it good news for the climate that you fly people to Estonia for 10 euros?”

“Yes,” O’Leary said. He said the air traffic supports economies across Europe. He added that technology is helping airlines boost their energy efficiency, and besides, if Ryanair didn’t exist, people would fly more-expensive flights anyway.

Tangen: “Moving on to corporate culture…”

Morgan Stanley ’s Gorman talked about the stress of his job as a new CEO, calling it “constant waves washing over the top of you.”

Tangen asked how he dealt with that.

“In my early years I found myself, and to be really candid, I was throwing up a lot — vomiting, nausea, out of the blue, just walking down the street.”

Gorman said he worked on getting physically fit and accepting that the pace was unsustainable.

He rowed. He took time to meditate—even if that meant just taking 15 minutes in his office to stare out the window at the birds of Manhattan.

“I had to puke sometimes during the financial crisis, too,” Tangen told Gorman. “Do you think people underestimate the stress of having these positions?”

“Oh yeah,” Gorman said. “People have no idea.”

Tangen says the show is steeped in his personal curiosity about everything from AI to what makes some vaunted companies succeed where others fail.

“In this media-frenzied world, everybody is so guarded, everything is so fast. The podcast gives you a chance to know not just about a subject, but about a person,” Carl-Henric Svanberg said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Svanberg is the former chairman of Volvo , and an ex-chairman of BP and ex-CEO of Ericsson .

With Tangen, Svanberg covered the challenges of corporate overhauls and colossal job cuts.

He ended up talking about his sister’s illness from childhood and her eventual death. That topic wasn’t planned, he said later in an interview.

“If I really dig into my soul …” Svanberg said on the podcast episode after Tangen asked what has driven him in his career.

“I had a sister that was diabetic from 9,” Svanberg went on. She eventually lost her sight in her 20s, and died when he was 46. The effect on his parents was formative to him.

“From early on, I always felt that I will always make them proud—I will not add to the burden,” Svanberg said. “I’ve always believed that that in a way has contributed to my drive.”

Tangen waited a year after taking the oil-fund reins to start the podcast in part because he didn’t want it to be seen as “some kind of ego project,” he said. He received intense scrutiny domestically over his personal wealth, which has included a vast art collection.

“Norwegians—we are known to be prudent. Norwegian elites show ‘conspicuous modesty,” preferring small mountain cabins over flashy chalets, said Trygve Gulbrandsen, a researcher with the independent Institute for Social Research in Oslo, and former government adviser, who watched Tangen’s rocky entry into civil service.

The podcast has helped Tangen win over much of the public, Gulbrandsen and others said.

While hardly a juggernaut, the podcast has reached close to three million total downloads, according to the fund. It is available weekly on Spotify and other platforms including YouTube.

The show is a big enough project around the oil-fund offices that Tangen’s staff involve portfolio managers in interview preparations and have them provide feedback on raw audio recordings.

A lot of the fund’s investments are confined to index-based holdings in processes tightly governed by the finance ministry. Fund managers can make tweaks around the edges, and Tangen has pushed for more active engagement with companies.

Meanwhile, Tangen has taken to embracing his showman’s side.

He has donned McDonald’s and Domino’s uniforms to publicize interviews with the restaurant chains’ CEOs. In a LinkedIn video promoting the Domino’s episode, he debated the validity of pineapple as a pizza topping, calling it “the biggest dispute in pizza history.”

“I love all of our toppings equally,” Domino’s CEO Russell Weiner posted in response, thanking Tangen for the podcast conversation.

Tangen, a prolific user of LinkedIn, has posted about his favorite books, his favorite New York and Oslo restaurants, and why he is a fan of the 10-minute power nap. He says he will often grab a quick snooze on his office sofa and have a coffee before recording.

The fund manager turned microphone jockey says he rarely gets turned down by CEOs. Even Tesla’s Musk, who resisted Tangen’s invitation for months, finally gave in.

Tangen opened an X account for the occasion. Three Norges Bank portfolio managers helped prep for the interview.

“I never give up,” said Tangen.

Write to Jenny Strasburg at jenny.strasburg@wsj.com